January 26, 2022

Ideas pitched for Parker

Meetings seek input on uses for school once it closes in 2019

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Gulian Petri, 5, of Buffalo, plays on the playground equipment Wednesday afternoon at Parker Elementary School in Cortland.

Make Parker Elementary School a facility for both small children and the elderly, was one suggestion that came from the second of three public meetings on the question of what to do with it.

Backed by Lori Megivern, this was one of the new ideas raised by the audience assembled Wednesday at the library of Parker Elementary School.

Megivern envisions a day care for both the elderly and the very young. “You can pick up your preschoolers and your parents and then go home for supper,” she said.

The school district and the city are seeking ideas about what the public would like to see at the school, which closes next July.

The first meeting was Aug. 2; the next is 5:30 p.m. Monday at City Hall, said Mayor Brian Tobin, who hosted Wednesday’s event. Four members of the city-assembled task force fielded ideas from about 25 people, taking notes and asking questions.

Another idea was to keep it as a neighborhood school, forming a partnership with SUNY Cortland, using it as a space for students to employ different teaching methods.

Esther Davis liked this idea. She worked at Parker Elementary School for 28 years and saw college students working on their teaching methods with children before she retired.

“It was a combined effort with the college and the school and it worked out really well,” said Davis, adding she wants the building to maintain an educational purpose, because that was the vision of Alton B. Parker — the school’s namesake and a teacher before he became a lawyer and eventual presidential nominee.

“That was his legacy and it should go on — it should be continued,” she said.

Then there was even the thought of creating a wildlife rehabilitation space on the land, as a function of the Cortland Community Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals — proffered by resident Patty Irish.

“That would be nice,” she said.

Irish also suggested renting the upper floor of Parker Elementary School to teachers — providing revenue for the building’s owner to help defray maintenance.

Tobin said the task force’s next step will be determining which ideas are feasible and sustainable.

Potential for Parker

Here are some of the possible uses for Parker Elementary School that have been floated so far:

• City offices.
• Charter school.
• Cortland Christian Academy.
• Senior housing.
• Mixed use first level school, upper level housing.
• Pre-kindergarten or daycare.
• Eldercare.
• Wildlife rehabilitation.

Christine Gregory, a member of the task force and the Cortland Board of Education, said she wants to follow up on some of the ideas raised at the meeting, like meeting with Cortland Youth Bureau representatives who were present Wednesday.

Tobin wanted the meeting to be kept on track with potential ideas for Parker so he did not allow youth bureau staff to elaborate on remarks they started giving to the public Wednesday.

But after the meeting, Heather Johnson, the bureau’s youth services supervisor, and youth services specialist Matt Marcey, said the youth bureau — which has been suggested as a possible fit for Parker — is happy where it is.

Johnson said the youth center, on Port Watson Street, serves children from that side of town, kids who often don’t have transportation and aren’t likely to walk far to another location.

“A lot of our kids come from near the high school, and South Ave., if they are uprooted it would be devastating,” she said, adding their five-minute walk would then become much longer and often programs end after it gets dark.

“As for the youth center, we’re in the neighborhood we belong in,” Marcey said.