After attending the special meeting on grade reconfiguration options for the Mineola School District, I was struck by the focus on closing schools as the only option for cost savings.†This solution seems short-sighted and inefficient.†This is especially true when you consider that none of the proposed savings resulted from actually closing a school, rather, all of the savings would be generated by decreasing the number of active classrooms and teachers.
According to the proposal presented at the meeting, the district can reduce school expenses by filling classrooms to 100 percent capacity. It was reported in the Mineola American that the schools are currently operating at 63 percent capacity. To achieve increased capacity, the consultants presented options for closing various schools and moving entire grades into the remaining schools. While this approach will see some savings through staff reduction, the increased busing required will only add additional costs and will require significant effort by the administration to ensure minimal interaction between young middle school students and the older high school students.†The board of education also admits that this strategy will cost the district its home-school approach, which has served Mineola so well in the past.
While I agree with the premise of saving money by increasing classroom capacity, I donít see the need to close schools to attain this goal.† Rather, the district could make the boundaries between the various local schools somewhat more flexible to allow for uneven enrollment.†
Take the example that the consultants continuously brought up of a school with 28 students in a particular grade.† Under the current system, these students would be divided into two small classes, both operating under capacity.† The board proposes busing all of these students to various schools (at significant costs).† Why not expand this schoolís feeder area to a size that fills the two classes to capacity, or, decrease the area that feeds this school so that it has one full class?† This method would achieve the same savings as the plan proposed by the consultants, displace fewer students, require less busing (thus costing less), and maintain the local school approach that so many in Mineola cherish.
I ask that the Mineola School Board continue to consider solutions that reduce costs while still meeting the needs of all students residing in Mineola.