Chittenango (WSYR-TV) -- It’s becoming all too familiar: Money troubles leading school districts to face tough cuts. But is it costing our kids too much? Parents gathered at Chittenango High School on Monday to talk about the district’s plan to close Lake Street Elementary School.
The Chittenango School Board is expected to approve the closure of the school in two years. Fifth graders would then go to the middle school and the younger kids will share space at the two remaining elementary schools.
Closing the school would mean longer commutes for kids, staff cuts and disruption in the classroom.
“This is the second public meeting – that’s it. The first one we were limited to our questions because they had a board meeting. How much public involvement is that? Little to none,” explained Donna Bonfardeci, who’s concerned about the school’s closure.
Administrators say it’s the best idea they have. To keep up with a $2.4-million loss in state aid, four dozen jobs were cut in recent years – mostly teaching positions – and bigger challengers lie ahead.
In 1973, enrollment was much higher at 3,340 students. Last year, there were just more than 2,000 students in the district. Projections suggest enrollment will drop to 1,890 students in the next five years.
"We already have cut some programs. But, we don't feel it had a significant negative impact. We are concerned that if we go any deeper into programs, it will have a negative impact on students,” said Superintendent of Schools Michael Schiedo.
Lake Street Elementary is the oldest building in the district and would require costly upgrades. Closing it will save the district half a million dollars per year. The cost of combining classrooms is harder to predict.
"My only concern is that something might be missing in this projection for maybe future enrollment because I'm not sure that they truly are grasping the growth that we've had come to our area,” said parent of two elementary school students Kelly Erickson.
Sheila Pitt, another parent of two students in the Chittenango School District told NewsChannel 9, “My kids are directly affected if they do not cut an elementary school because there won't be funds to be able to keep the programs that they are going to be going into. It's not just about my kids. As a parent, I am concerned about all of the well-being for all of the kids.”
The alternative to closing a school would be to cut art, technology and business programs at the high school and music at the elementary schools. Kindergarten would be reduced to a half day and extra curricular activities would be cut. This will not be a public vote. It’s all in the hands of the school board.