Onteora board to choose reconfiguration plan tonight
Editor's note: The Onteora school board's decision on reconfiguration will be posted here after it occurs tonight.
BOICEVILLE, N.Y. — The Onteora Board of Education is scheduled to choose one of three reconfiguration plans at tonight’s meeting, which will be held at the middle/high school at 7 p.m.
The plans on the table include closing Phoenicia Elementary School and having Woodstock and Bennett elementary schools continue to serve grades K-6, although the school board appears unlikely to choose that option.
Although trustees have expressed concern about transportation and scheduling issues in the other two options, both of which would cluster grades between buildings, every member of the school board has spoken favorably of potential educational benefits of switching configurations.
The two clustering proposals include closing Phoenicia Elementary School, converting Woodstock Elementary School into a K-2 school, and making Bennett Elementary School serve grades 3-6; and having the Phoenicia and Woodstock schools each serve K-3 with Bennett taking on grades 4-6 — the option Superintendent Phyllis Spiegel McGill supports that has been often referred to as the “bookend” plan.
Trustee Dan Spencer said he is interested in “rightsizing,” a measure a financial consultant recommended when he reported in September that the district is on course for a financial crisis in the next five years, and he is intrigued by some other benefits associated with the second plan.
Spencer said if all the district’s students attend the same elementary schools, it could more closely knit the community together and eliminate rivalries that currently exist.
Other board members worried about the impact of closing a school on the Phoenicia community and on the district’s flexibility in the future.
Trustee Laurie Osmond said at last week’s meeting that if closing the Phoenicia school results in dramatic property value declines in the Shandaken community, the Bennett and Woodstock school communities could bear the brunt of the tax burden in the future.
The 53-unit Woodstock Commons housing project that is under construction could bring more students to the district, noted Tony Fletcher, vice president of the school board. Also, despite the fact that the Phoenicia school is the district’s smallest with the least students, Fletcher said the Phoenicia school’s enrollment has remained stable while enrollment has fallen at the other two elementary schools. Continued...
Fletcher also has expressed concern about the two-school clustering model bussing some of the district’s youngest pupils for about 30 miles each morning. He said Monday there are transportation concerns with all models, but the distances are lengthier in the two-school clustering plan than in the bookend plan because with two schools, some students need to be transported from one end of the district to the other.
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