Local Schools Considered for Closure

New York state is facing a $6.3 billion budget deficit for the 2011-12 year, according to the Governor’s Office. Across the state, cost-saving methods are being researched and implemented to bridge this gap. In Ulster County, what’s next on the chopping block affects K-12 students.

New Paltz is one of three school districts to consider school closure and consolidation. The plan explores the possibility of closing the New Paltz Middle School and Duzine Elementary School.

Research presented to the New Paltz Board of Education (BOE) by School district Superintendent Maria Rice on Jan. 26 shows that this plan would yield a net savings of about $200,000 to $400,000 and will reduce the number of campuses that need to be maintained. The BOE also stresses that if students are removed from the middle school it will be so on a temporary basis.

“The district is preparing a long term facilities plan this year, designed to assess and address our facilities in a sensible manner. That long term plan cannot be set into motion in time for next year, so any consolidation would be intended as a temporary “bridge” to the time when the priorities of the district are properly analyzed and a plan is in place,” said board President Donald Kerr.

The temporary budget discussion runs from July 7, 2011 to June 30, 2012, according to Kerr. This would impact students for the 2011-2012 school year.

The research suggests that if both Duzine Elementary School and the New Paltz Middle School close, the students would have to be relocated.

According to Kerr, New Paltz currently rents out classrooms to Board of Cooperative and Educational Services (BOCES) at Lenape, so that space could be reclaimed if Duzine were closed.  Middle school closure would possibly require split sessions with grades six to 12 at New Paltz High School.

Known as the “split/staggered schedule,” the research of grades six to 12 consolidation,  would leave  half of the students at home an extra one to two hours per day, would reduce electives and may impact modified sports.

This consolidation would also create overused space adding three pupils to each core and regular class, according to the research presented by Rice. It would also limit the time to prepare the facilities, which would have to be when students weren’t there like during summer 2011.

Other cost-saving methods being considered include energy conservation, online courses and position audits. However, Kerr believes that ultimately, buildings are not the most important part of the education equation.

“The philosophy is that most valuable assets of a school district get in their car and drive home each night,” Kerr said.

The other two school districts considering closure options are Kingston and Rondout Valley.