Group looks at options for Niskayuna school configuration

Thursday, October 17, 2013
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— A Niskayuna Central School District committee tasked with recommending the future configuration of district schools worked Thursday night to narrow down six possibilities.

The possibilities range from essentially maintaining the current structure but redistricting attendance zones to consolidating five elementary schools into four and other options that involve the middle schools. District officials hope to have a recommendation for the school board next month.

The committee has its roots in the contentious budget process last spring, when the board worked to close a large budget gap. Talk turned to the possible closure of a school. At that point, though, officials said it was too late in the process to properly consider the idea.

The committee is made up of 40 people, many of them members of the public. They have been working with a facilitator since summer to come up with criteria upon which to base their recommendation.

The committee came up with the possibilities, as well questions for district officials to get information on the impacts of those possibilities. The committee received that information Thursday night.

Still to come is the impact each possibility would have on the budget. That information is expected at the next scheduled meeting Oct. 28. That is the last scheduled meeting, though officials said more would be scheduled, if needed.

The goal is to have a final recommendation to the school board for its Nov. 12 meeting, but no later than Dec. 2.

The six options being considered by the committee:

* Consolidating five K-5 elementary schools into four, keeping the middle schools as is with grades 6-8.

* Consolidating five elementary schools into four K-4 schools, with grades 5 and 6 at the current Van Antwerp Middle School and grades 7 and 8 at the current Iroquois Middle School.

* Consolidating five elementary schools into four K-4 schools, with 5-8 middle schools at Van Antwerp and Iroquois.

* Creating a middle school campus with sixth grade at what is now Rosendale Elementary School, putting grades 7-8 at Iroquois and closing Van Antwerp.

* Having five K-6 elementary schools, putting grades 7-8 at Iroquois and closing Van Antwerp

* Maintaining the current setup — five K-5 elementary schools and two 6-8 middle schools — but redistricting attendance zones.

Leading the group is Sean Brady, president of Prism Decision Solutions of Binghamton. The contract with Prism is for $17,000.

Brady is leading the group methodically through the process, having members use individual voting pads to express preferences in different areas and discuss the issues in small groups.

The criteria upon which the recommendation is to be made are: academic program, sustainability, equitability, infrastructure, revenue generation, student impact, transitions and disruption.

Officials have said the committee is following board policy for considering school reconfiguration or closure, and there is still much to do to consider all the options.

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