When school officials in the Saugerties Central School District (SCSD) discussed closing Mt. Marion Elementary School after the 2021-22 school year, they talked about giving families time to get acquainted with new elementary attendance zones. The district made good on that promise last week, posting the boundaries for each of their three remaining elementary schools.
• The Lawrence M. Cahill Elementary attendance zone will cover northeast Route 9W to the end of the school district, including all roads to the Hudson River; northeast Route 32 to the junction of High Falls Road and Old Route 32; Old Kings Highway to the end of the school district, including all roads east and west; southwest Kings Highway to the end of the school district; Mt. Marion Park; southeast to the junction of Route 9W and Spaulding Lane, including roads on the east side of 9W; and the Windemere development to the junction of Simmons and Appletree drives on the west side of 9W.
• The Grant D. Morse Elementary attendance zone will include northeast Route 32 from its junction with High Falls Road, including High Falls Road and Nelson Hoff Road; south to and including Glasco Turnpike; west to Lewis Hollow Road; east to Mt. Marion Park; all roads from there south to the end of the school district; and Route 212 from Churchland Lane west to the end of the school district.
• The Charles M. Riccardi Elementary attendance zone will cover north Route 9W to the junction of Spaulding Lane and Route 9W; Barclay Heights developments along the west side of 9W, along with all roads east; southwest 9W to the end of the district; and Old Stage Road to the end of the district.
This week, Superintendent Kirk Reinhardt identified the different factors that went into creating the attendance boundaries, including bus routes and times, geography, bus company contracts, class size equity, classroom capacities, building capacities, the needs of students with disabilities and the potential areas of future student population growth.
Reinhardt said, “Sparsity and bus driver shortage(s)” were the most difficult hurdles to clear.
The new attendance zones were created in concert with various transportation consultants and contractors, in addition to the district’s own transportation department.
The SCSD’s Board of Education in January voted 8-1 to close Mt. Marion Elementary School at the end of the 2021-22 school year and absorb its students into the three remaining elementary schools in the district. The Mt. Marion building will be turned into a universal pre-K hub and district offices.
In 2021, school officials said closing an elementary school was an inevitability, in part because of finances. An October 2021 report by the district’s Governance Committee shows a projected $1 million budget shortfall for the SCSD in 2022-23, a $1.7 million gap for 2023-24, a $3.7 million chasm for 2024-25, and a $6.1 million shortfall for 2025-26.
The Governance study also charted a districtwide student population which peaked at around 3,500 in 2005-06 and has been on a steady decline ever since. The current student population is around 2,400, and though there are numerous residential projects either approved by or being reviewed by the Town Planning Board, the district is still projecting a modest annual decrease over the next decade, likely dropping to around 2,100 by the 2029-30 school year.
That report also said the district has an opportunity to become more efficient while increasing programming, aligning curriculum and enhancing education for all its students. To achieve that, they offered three different models for a three-elementary school future, settling on an option that will maintain the current K-6 configuration for the three remaining elementary schools. The pros of this model compared to the other two under consideration were listed as maintaining neighborhood schools, involve fewer transitions and simplified transportation. The cons were noted as less equity in class size, ESSA funding, curriculum consistency and programming; the possibility of future redistricting; and less cost savings.
The new elementary model could potentially save the district around $1.8 million a year. That savings will be realized in part through a reduction in staff, including 13.2 teachers, 8.5 teaching assistants, 2.5 monitors, two custodial workers, one custodian, one principal, one secretary and one food service worker.
For more information on the elementary attendance boundaries, including detailed maps, visit the officials SCSD website at: https://www.saugerties.k12.ny.us/Page/1.