KINDERHOOK – At the Ichabod Crane school board’s fifth budget forum last week Interim Superintendent of Schools Lee Bordick made an official recommendation to close both the Martin Van Buren and Martin H. Glynn elementary schools, moving all students to the main campus on Route 9.
The Tuesday March 15 gathering in the Middle School cafeteria also gave board members a chance to make known in public their feelings about some of the budget cuts proposed so far for the next school year. Several said they were against cutting busing within a two-mile radius from the schools, mostly for safety issues, but none voiced objections to closing the elementary schools, though there was debate over where the grades should go.
Mr. Bordick said that he will have preliminary budget numbers for the board at the next budget meeting scheduled for Tuesday, March 29. That will also be when the board has to decide whether or not to close the elementary schools. Mr. Bordick said at this point the board plans to keep full-day kindergarten in the budget.
If the buildings are closed, the district expects to save $1.6 million. Shutting the schools would also mean 19 staff cuts and an increase in the size of primary school classes to 20 or more students. Third graders would move into the Primary School on State Farm Road, and 4th and 5th graders will move into the Middle School.
“Obviously when we are reducing staff, it’s a difficult decision,” Mr. Bordick said at the March 15 meeting. He said the district has confirmed that four teachers plan on retiring at the end of this year and four teaching assistant retirements are also coming up, and these departures would reduce the total number of layoffs required. Closing the schools will also mean cutting a librarian, two school nurses, a guidance counselor, custodians and food service workers, as well as clerical staff.
The position of one school administrator is also slated to be cut, and it will not be elementary school Principal John Stickles. Mr. Bordick said the current elementary principal will still be in charge of 3rd and 4th grades, but 3rd grade will now be part of the primary school, where Melissa Murray is the principal. The position now held by high school Assistant Principal Daniel Farley will most likely be cut, and the middle school and high school will share an assistant principal.
Closing the two community school buildings also means a savings in transportation costs of around $135,000. Busing routes will be cut from 52 runs to 37 if the elementary schools closed, said Mr. Bordick. The district is looking at efficiencies in bus stops, but after several board members and members of the community talked about safety issues it was clear the board will not support cut the bus service for students who live up to two miles from the school campus. There was some discussion about going to a one-bell busing system, meaning students at all three schools would arrive and depart on the same schedule, but Mr. Bordick said the current fleet was not prepared to handle that change.
Board member Anthony Welcome brought up the issue of having 4th graders in the same building as 8th graders and recommended moving the 8th grade to the High School. If the two elementary schools are closed, the high school building will have the most unused space, and there was discussion about how that would affect school programs. Mr. Bordick offered assurances that the younger students would be kept apart from the older, Junior High school kids.
The debates will continue until the budget is adopted in April by the board. Then voters will have a chance to approve or reject the final budget on May 17. If the budget does not pass, the board has another chance to make cuts for another budget vote in June.
The Tuesday March 29 will take place in the Middle School cafeteria at 7 p.m.