December 2, 2021

Meetings set on possible school closing

Joe McIntyre/file photo

Parker Elementary School in Cortland. File photo.

CORTLAND — The Cortland Board of Education is now getting into the task of deciding the fate of its elementary schools, setting a series of public meetings that will address the facilities study, which concluded in January.

• Board of Education Interim President Janet Griffin said the first public meeting is set for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, prior to the regularly scheduled Board of Education meeting. At the earlier time the board will meet with the Facilities Committee, which was the panel that had convened to study the district’s space needs.

The meeting is coming at the request of the panel, which was disbanded at the final meeting when its task was done, Griffin said. At the final meeting Jan 23, consultants the Cortland School District hired to study its district space needs — Castallo & Silky LLC — recommended closing either Parker or Virgil elementary school. The facilities committee had guided the consultants through that process. The panel, comprising community members, parents and staff, now wants to discuss with the board the consultant’s recommendation, Griffin said.

“They just made a request to the board to meet with us so that they could actually talk to us about the study,” Griffin said. “We granted the request.”

Facilities committee member Amy Sundheim said she will be attending the meeting Tuesday but was not sure why it was called. Other members could not be reached for comment.

In addition, at that Tuesday Board of Education meeting, Griffin expects the board will discuss whether it will need to ask the consultant to attend future meetings to further explain the study’s findings.

The meeting schedule includes:

• At the regular board meeting on March 13, the board will answer some questions that came up at the public forum on the consultant’s space recommendations.

Some questions raised by the public — about other money-saving measures the district could implement, questions about actual birth rates that affect the district and administrative decisions — will be answered at that meeting, Griffin said.

“We felt it was important to address some of the questions asked of us,” she said.

• On March 20 the school board will have a work session that will start looking at the recommendations, she said, such as closing an elementary school, remaining the same, or creating sister schools.

The public is welcome to listen to the discussions, she said.

• The board hopes by April 16 to have come to a decision about the closure of a school or what direction to go in, she said.

“There’s nothing that could possibly be harder for a board to consider than a school closing,” Griffin said. “Each of us knows that this is so emotionally charged and the board truly wants to do what is best for the students.”