If money were no object, we’d be all in favor of the Schenectady City School District unloading Oneida Middle School, which it closed a year ago in part because it was in lousy shape, and building a new school to replace the even-more-dilapidated Elmer Avenue School. But the district and city it serves are both struggling financially, and building a new school would cost local taxpayers far more money over a longer period of time than reopening Oneida as an elementary school.
But what’s going on with this school district? It hardly makes sense to close a school one year, then realize you need to reopen it or find some other place to put an unexpected influx of students the next. Yet that’s what the district has been doing in recent years, and the current situation with Oneida and Elmer Ave. isn’t the only example. The school board recently decided to close Blodgett School, which it was leasing, and has also talked about abandoning FDR.
Oneida, which is a section of the city that’s been growing, would have room for all of the Elmer kids, plus overflow from other closed elementaries, if it were K-6. Making it K-8 would be more complicated, requiring reconfigurations at other schools, but probably desirable since that’s the direction the district has been going in recent years.
The key is a good long-range plan, and even though Superintendent Laurence Spring indicates Elmer still has between five and 10 good years left in it, there’s little time to waste.
Renovating Oneida would cost $18 million — quite a bit more money than the $2.9 million in repairs cited by the district when it closed the school last year — but with the state covering 96 percent of the cost (vs. roughly 70 percent for a new school), this certainly seems like the way to go.
In the meantime, district officials should recognize that one of the reasons their student population keeps growing is their failure, until only recently, to teach kids about sex and the need to practice birth control. If Schenectady’s kids didn’t have so many kids, it would make the school district’s job that much easier.