The Scotia-Glenville Central School District Board of Education is not closing any of the district’s elementary schools — at least for the 2013-14 school year.
The board on Monday took that option off the table as it looks to close a roughly $1 million budget gap. If all programs and personnel were maintained for the next school year, the budget would increase by a little more than $2 million, from $47.8 million to $49.9 million.
Superintendent Susan Swartz said she did not recommend closing one of the four elementary schools — Lincoln, Glendaal, Glen-Worden or Sacandaga. Based on the current enrollment, the district runs two sections of each grade at all schools except Sacandaga, where it has three per grade.
This year’s kindergarten class was relatively small at 168, but that could be an aberration. Swartz said she doesn’t believe there would be a lot of savings by closing a school and reducing the number of sections. One fewer principal would be needed but there are still teachers and support staff such as nurses, psychologists and social workers who would have to be crammed into the remaining three buildings. Transportation costs might increase.
“You’re going to have to redraw the district boundaries to get something like an even number of students in buildings,” she said.
A 2010 study found that closing an elementary school could save about $200,000.
Board members also worried that development in Scotia and Glenville could bring more school-age children.
“We’ve got all the building going on. It’s a good thing we didn’t sell Glen-Worden the last time we closed it,” said board President Pamela Carbone.
Board member Colleen Benedetto said the district can’t rule out the possibility of closing a school in future years. Scotia-Glenville has to do something with its aging district office, which she said is in horrible shape. There has been previous talk about moving it into one of the schools.
Benedetto said one of her schools closed growing up and she turned out fine.
“I think it can be done. But if we want to do it, do it right,” she said.
Board member David Bucciferro said it would be too late to get a capital project done before the fall.
“We won’t be able to prepare our schools so that we could lose one of the schools and close the district office,” he said.
Swartz also gave an overview of programs and personnel the district provides that are not mandated by the state, including kindergarten, art, music and physical education taught by separate instructors in elementary school, and elementary librarians.
Swartz said she does not favor having the classroom teacher teach subjects such as physical education. By contract, the teachers get planning time during the day that typically occurs when students are at one of those special activities.
Swartz said the fiscal situation is somewhat better than last year, when she faced a bigger gap.
“Am I excited about this? Absolutely not?” she said.
During the meeting’s public comment session, Scotia-Glenville Teachers Association President Eric DeCarlo blasted board members for comments made at the last meeting. Board member Andy Crapo had pointed out that a district in Rhode Island had fired all the teachers and brought them back under a new contract. Also, board member David Bucciferro questioned whether teachers should get step increases, given the fiscal difficulties.
Such remarks are creating a toxic atmosphere as teachers are in negotiations with the administration, according to DeCarlo. He criticized the board for adopting budgets with low tax increases in the last few years instead of putting money in reserve.
“I will not let the talented professionals in my association be made the scapegoats for the district’s financial issues,” he said.
Resident Nicole Broadhead said she believes the teachers should offer concessions because the taxpayers cannot handle any more tax increases.
“Teachers get paid by taxpayers and there is a limited amount of funds with the economy the way it is,” she said. “The federal government is going to give less; the state government is going to give less.”
The board will continue its budget discussions at its next meeting Monday at 7 p.m. at Scotia-Glenville Middle School.