ICC asks public for input on shuttered buildings
KINDERHOOK – The Ichabod Crane School Board will listen to what the public thinks should happen to the two school buildings the district closed last year.
The board has scheduled community forums to discuss budget issues over the next three months and has placed the future of the buildings on the agenda for the January 24 forum.
Interim School Superintendent Lee Bordick announced the agenda for all of the forums at the board’s regular session January 3, saying he would present the budget projections for one-bell and two-bell busing systems at the first forum January 10. The proposals for these systems would reduce the number of bus runs each day.
In addition to the building the board plans to use the January 24 forum to discuss high school electives and full-day or half-day kindergarten with the public; in February the topics will be sports and special education.
The board closed the elementary schools in Valatie and Kinderhook last year due to reduced enrollment, special education became a major topic. Elementary classes are all consolidated at the main campus.
Director of Special Education Robert McCloskey suggested one of the buildings could someday be used as a special education “academy.” He did not specify which building, but he did say that the district would save around $200,000 if it moved the special education students back to the district rather that busing the students to facilities outside the district like Questar III/BOCES. “We haven’t even calculated the transportation costs,” he told the board of using one of the school buildings as an academy.
Mr. McCloskey said district could charge tuition for students from outside the district who used a special education academy here. But he also noted that the state Education Department would not approve have one building used exclusively for special needs students. Regular education classes have to be mixed in with special needs classes, he said.
Other districts in the area are looking at space in their general education buildings to house special need classrooms, said Mr. McCloskey, adding that ICC might be able withdraw its students from Questar III/BOCES programs and move them closer to home in the neighboring schools districts at a lower cost.
One of those districts is Schodack Central Schools, which has space in its district to house special education students. Schodack and ICC are currently conducting a merger study, and Mr. McCloskey told the board that there are “endless possibilities” if the merger goes through to bring special needs students back to the district and create a program to attract special needs students from other districts.
The board is in negotiation with the Village of Valatie and the Town of Kinderhook to lease the Martin H. Glynn School in Valatie to the two municipalities for offices. School board member John Antalek said the district has to have voter approval to lease or sell the buildings. He said that there could be a referendum on the May ballot during the annual school district budget vote.
He did say that if the board sold either building the money from the sale would have to be used to pay off debt on the buildings; the district borrowed to pay for renovations to both buildings in previous years. “We’d pay back the debt and that affects our state aid,” Mr. Antalek said of funding from the state for school buildings.
Mr. Antalek, who heads the board’s committee in charge of arrangements for the two empty buildings said that selling them “benefits the taxpayer less than you think it would.”
Superintendent Bordick said that if the village and town boards leased the Glynn School they would pay utilities and other costs on the building and pay a very minimal rent. Both Mr. Bordick and Mr. Antalek felt that the didtrict would be wise to find a tenant for the building, but they want to hear from residents first, so the board decided to add the subject of the schools to the forum agenda.
The first forum is Tuesday, January 10 at 7 p.m. in the High School Auditorium.