Savings from Lewisboro Elementary School Closing $500k Less Than Projected
CROSS RIVER, N.Y. – The Katonah-Lewisboro school district has shaved off more than $500,000 from the projected savings associated with closing one elementary school, a scenario it is investigating for the start of the 2014-2015 school year.
The district had said the possible closing would save $2.25 million. While it would save 80 percent in utility costs for the building, the major savings would come from personnel reductions. The $2.25 million figure included savings on positions that would have been eliminated through attrition even if no school was closed, said Paul Kreutzer, superintendent of schools, who presented the information Wednesday at the third of four public hearings on the matter.
“Factored out of this slide from previous presentations is any actually occurring attrition of staffing unrelated to the school closure,” Kreutzer said. “The personnel associated with this figure are known to this district are in draft form and will not be revealed at this time.”
A group dedicated to stopping the current process has asked for a breakdown of the projected savings, but says the district has not provided it. Katonah-Lewisboro Save Our Schools says the savings is even less, at $1.55 million. The group started a petition to get the Board of Education’s School Closure Task Force to halt the process and create a new timeline. The petition has 443 supporters and needs 567 more.
Schools Trustee Janet Harckham, chairwoman of the task force, which was formed to investigate the effects of closing the school, said Wednesday that the three-member committee has no plans to stop its process. On the current timeline, it will make a final recommendation Dec. 19 to the school board, which will then vote on whether to approve the educational impact statement the same day. A final public hearing will be held Jan. 16, and the board will make a final decision Jan. 23.
The next significant step will be Nov. 21, when the most up-to-date demographic information is to be revealed. The community group has questioned the data used to determine enrollment projections, saying it is outdated.
Chris Somers recently moved to South Salem and said he closed on his new home two days before the district announced it would investigate the possibility of closing one of its elementary schools.
After a collective, sympathetic sigh from the audience, Somers asked the task force how many homes are for sale today compared to 2003. While they didn’t have that exact data, task force member Marjorie Schiff said the peak year for home sales in the community was 2004 with 318. After a downward trend, 197 homes were sold in 2012, a 30 percent increase over 2011, she said.
With the new demographics set to be released Nov. 21, Schiff recommended Somers bring his questions to that meeting. However, Kreutzer has said “hope is not a strategy” when talking about the housing market and its potential to bounce back. Even if home sales increased significantly for several years in a row, the district would still struggle to maintain a flat enrollment number, let alone make gains, he said.
Another resident said school closure should only be considered as a last resort.
“I’m concerned that we are at the moment of last resort because we’re approaching the point where there are too few kids and too few teachers in the building,” Schiff said. “Can we make this work for this few kids in these four buildings?”
The district is running well below capacity. Projections show a drop from 3,466 students in 2012-2013 to 2,965 in 2016-2017. In the past six years, enrollment has dropped by about 600 students. An earlier subcommittee recommended to the school board that it close one or two elementary schools.
At its Oct. 3 meeting, the school board learned that Lewisboro Elementary was the only viable option if it were to close a school at all. Kreutzer has stressed that the district isn’t advocating that be done. Rather, it is sharing the facts with the public so people’s opinions can be taken into account.
Scott Daly, who has two daughters at Lewisboro Elementary with a third who will join them in two years, said he will immediately grieve his taxes if the school is closed. Like many, he said the closure will hurt property values, not to mention the quality of education his daughters receive.
“Of course my main concern is always my children,” he said. “Strength has always been reading and writing, but she hit a major bump this year in math. If we increase class sizes to 22-to-25 next year, there is no way she will get the one-on-one attention she gets now.”
Class sizes are currently 16.6 in kindergarten, 17.3 in first grade, 17 in second grade, 22.5 in third grade, 25.3 in fourth grade and 23.8 in fifth grade. The task force has set a class size goal of 20 for kindergarten through second grade, and 25 for third through fifth grade.
The final public hearing will be at 7 p.m. Nov. 18 at the John Jay Middle School theater.