The School Board should revisit the idea of closing one of its four elementary schools, says Trustee Teresa Bach-Tucker.
The board last considered the question in 2011, when a committee formed to study the question advised against it and recommended revisiting the issue in five years. But Bach-Tucker said she believed the time had come to reconsider the question at the Feb. 11 School Board meeting.
Enrollment has fallen by 323 since 2009, says Bach-Tucker. Since 1997, enrollment has fallen 20 percent.
Board Vice President Thomas Ham said it’s always a good idea to “take another look and make sure we’re properly suited.” He stressed, though, that any committee must be free of emotion or opinion, and look just at the facts. The first and most important question that should be answered, he said, was whether the remaining buildings would have the capacity for the necessary number of students. “Everything else is irrelevant.”
Superintendent Seth Turner has been vocal in the past about his opposition to closing an elementary school. During a November meeting about school consolidation hosted by the Saugerties League of Women Voters, Turner called the notion of closing an elementary school “penny wise but pound foolish,” citing a number of potential problems that could come from such a decision. At that meeting, he pointed out that property value of homes in the neighborhood decreases when a school is shuttered. The financial value of a school building drops dramatically when it is no longer used as a school, and the buildings are not always easy to sell.
Bach-Tucker admitted that “everyone loves a neighborhood school.” She said that she would like to involve the public in this discussion.
Other area districts, including Kingston and Rondout Valley, have recently turned to closing elementary schools to save money.