Friday, 26 November 2010 00:00
469 yea! 2234 nay! By a nearly 5 to 1 margin, voters rejected a bond that was presented as the most cost-effective option in terms of savings. Was it defeated because of an anti-clustering sentiment? Or because of opposition to moving fifth and eighth graders to the middle school and high school, respectively? Or because of a desire not to see neighborhood schools closed? Or because of closing buildings while bonding to build onto others? Or was it due to a combination of some or all of these factors? The question as to what the community wants remains unanswered.
The whole discussion about consolidation began approximately two years ago in the face of a decreasing school population. A consulting firm was contracted and various scenarios including closing buildings were formulated. In referencing what the 2011-12 budget looks like now, Superintendent Nagler stresses, “Let’s not forget what is driving the bus!” While it has often been suggested to never put the cart before the horse, putting the cart before the bus also has some inherent risks, especially if the bus has no governor attached.
The decision to close two schools was made first and then the goal became trying to figure out how to best accomplish that objective. But maybe two was not the optimum number. From a strictly financial standpoint, at the very least, three seemed to be a far superior choice but it was rejected for other reasons. What does the community want? Is two the number? Or it it one? Or even zero?
Comments from the board include an expressed desire to have the public weigh in. The remaining bond option and default option involve closing two schools and some voters may go for the bond option if only to avoid the default option. But what if there was an alternative default option? Would that be still another logical step in letting the voters decide?
The aforementioned consultants projected that for 2010, the total pre-K to 12 enrollment would be 2,620 and as per information appearing in the Mineola American of Sept. 15, 2010, the current figure is 2,728. For grades one to five, the projection was 932 and the actual figure is 1,020.
What if Jackson and Meadow were both used for pre-K through two and Hampton and Cross for three through five? It would offer a semi-cluster approach for grades pre-K through five and place roughly 350 children in the two larger schools and approximately 300 in each of the other two buildings. And needless to say, although only one building is closed, the fifth and eighth grades remain where they are and there is no need for a bond now with all green space preserved.
This is not meant to minimize the dire financial picture captured in the superintendent’s 2011/12 budget and the Finance Committee should undoubtedly be consulted if the board feels this option has any viability. It would also seem that this plan could be implemented by September with a minimum of disruption and would further allow the board additional time to monitor further developments and acquire additional input.