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Johnstown school district facing student body decline

Johnstown school district facing student body decline

The Greater Johnstown School District has begun to look at a range of options for dealing with decli

The Greater Johnstown School District has begun to look at a range of options for dealing with declining enrollment, and is seeking input from the public on how to do so.

Interim Business Manager Robert Munn told the Board of Education on Thursday that enrollment in the district has fallen from 2,571 in 1978 to a projected 1,802 students by 2012. Munn told the board that the “neighborhood school” concept used by the district has been modified by other school districts that use the concept. Traditionally, students growing up in Johnstown have attended one of the elementary schools — Jansen Avenue, Glebe Street, Warren Street or Pleasant Avenue — and then come together for seventh and eighth grade at Knox Junior High School.

School board member Susanne Fitzgerald said the district has slowly eliminated staffing positions at Jansen Avenue and Warren Street through attrition. While the larger elementary schools typically have 14 classes, two for each grade level, Jansen and Warren have dwindled to eight or nine, Fitzgerald said.

District officials said eliminating one of the elementary schools could be an option for dealing with the decline in enrollment. Another possible facet of restructuring could include moving sixth grade to the Knox building, transforming it to a middle school.

“You wouldn’t necessarily be laying people off, because you still need staff to handle those kids. There would be some job cuts but hopefully they could come through attrition,” Fitzgerald said.

Superintendent of Schools Katherine Sullivan said many options are on the table for restructuring. She said if the district closes one of the elementary schools it might try to sell the building and surrounding property, but not necessarily. She said the school district receives revenues from the Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery Board of Co-operative Education Services, which uses some empty classrooms at Jansen and Warren for BOCES vocational classes. The district also uses athletic fields at all six of its schools.

“We’re just at the very beginning stages of this,” Sullivan said.

But the district plans to move quickly. According to Munn’s presentation, the district In December will be forming a restructuring advisory committee consisting of about 20 people, including students, senior citizens, parents and city residents without children.

“We’re looking for several people from different demographics to serve on this committee,” Sullivan said. “We’ll have more information about this at a public forum on Nov. 20.” That forum will be conducted at 7 p.m. at the Johnstown High School Lecture Hall.

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