Saturday, March 10, 2012

Closing a school is a problem - not a solution

In politics, the time to deliver bad news is on Friday afternoon.

On Friday afternoon, our school district’s superintendent delivered bad news to the staff at my daughter’s elementary school.

While the NYS budget is being debated still – with the Board of Education’s initial public presentation of its budget proposal scheduled for Wednesday – he told the teachers assembled after school in no uncertain that Center Street Elementary School will be closed.

There was no notice given to the families – and of course, parents and kids quickly learned about the closing, but with no information about what happens next.

Indeed, the local newspaper’s account reveals that, indeed, there is no plan in place. Only unanswered questions about what happens to our students and our teachers and school staff, not to mention what happens to the building itself.

I think the proposed closure is a mistake and that parents from all over the district, regardless of which school their child or children currently attend, ought to see this as their issue also.

The superintendent has presented closing Center Street School as the solution to a $1 million problem. Last year, the Board of Education undertook a preliminary analysis of the costs and benefits of school “consolidation” – that is, closing one of the four elementary schools and reorganizing them as three. In fact, the BOE’s analysis from last year found that closing a school and consolidating as three elementary schools (allowing for layoffs of “redundant” staff) will generate $920,000 in savings ONLY WHEN CLASS SIZES REACH THE MAXIMUM ALLOWABLE UNDER TEACHERS’ CONTRACTS.

I hope that anyone reading this post understands that “contract maximum” is not the same as what has been proven pedagogically sound.

I am not a “numbers” person, but right now, I want to see numbers to convince me that closing the school is a good idea.

About 200 children attend Center Street, which boasts a proud history as a neighborhood school. Most of the students live within walking distance – I see only about a dozen “bus students” when I get my daughter at the end of the day, along with a crowd of other parents.

To me, it makes no sense now to add the cost of busing 200 children to other schools that already are full and functioning.

Closing Center Street School will not end the budgetary problems in our school district - and it will only deepen the economic crisis for our entire community as qualified and dedicated workers lose their jobs and move from the area. Other businesses will suffer the loss of customers and clients.

This is no solution. We need to stand against it.


  1. I agree completely--well said. This is a tragedy for Center Street School children and their parents, but it is also terrible for the community as a whole. Those who lament the decline of Main Street should see this for what it is--another nail in the coffin of downtown. Once the school is closed it will likely never return and the town will lose a key social institution. As the Housing Summit committees move forward they will have to contend with this as well, in addition to vacant houses in neighborhoods all over Oneonta and unused upstairs floors on Main Street.

  2. Vicki, thanks for your comment. Also, thanks for being the friend who phoned me yesterday and told me about the news being circulated on e-mail.