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Elementary realignment moves forward

At its regular board meeting on Wednesday, May 25, the Central Valley School District Board of Education let stand its Dec. 18 vote to realign the district’s elementary schools. Under the plan, Fisher Elementary will become a prekindergarten-grade 1 building and Barringer Road Elementary will become a grade-2-4 building.

The board cited the realignment’s benefits for students and the high financial cost of changing course as the main reasons for the realignment.

Superintendent of Schools Rich Hughes presented the timeline for the board’s original decision, including comments made by prior superintendents, and a community and staff survey conducted the district’s first year. He then reviewed the data that shows disparities between the two buildings.

Phil Squadrito of King & King, LLC (the district’s architects) and Scott Burlis and Joe Nolan of Campus Construction Management Group (the district’s capital project construction management company) reviewed the additional costs the district would incur if the board were to abandon its original decision. The loss of design efficiencies, redesign costs, and delays would total more than $5 million, Most of which would not be eligible for state building aid because it exceeds the cap on incidental costs.

Fiscal consultant Dr. Rick Timbs closed out the presentation, telling the board that the district was not realizing the savings expected under the merger. With merger aid to begin falling by more than $440,000 per year beginning in 2018-19, he warned the district would need to take steps to avoid the plight of other districts who failed to institute cost savings before their merger aid disappeared.

The board then opened the meeting to question and comments from the audience. Roughly ten people spoke in opposition to the change. Individuals expressed their concern over the loss of neighborhood schools, the effect of changes on students, and multiple moves during the capital project.

At the close of the public session, the board completed the business portion of the meeting. Prior to adjourning to executive session to address personnel matters, board member Fred Schell moved to delay the realignment until after work is completed in the elementary buildings. Board member Bill Lennox seconded the motion. The motion failed on a 3-3 vote.

The capital project plans will now be sent to the New York State Education Department for approval. Construction is slated to begin at Central Valley Academy in Spring of 2017. Work will be completed in all buildings by the start of school in 2020-21.

The district will move forward with preparation for the opening of school in September 2016. The transportation department is developing bus routes so parents will know the schedules prior to the end of school in June.