October 23, 2021

Prepare for change

Cortland proceeds with transition for school closures

Photos by Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Parker Librarian Kim Hay organizes the book stacks at Parker Elementary School on Friday in Cortland. City schools are preparing for the closure of Parker and Virgil elementary schools next spring and the reorganization of the remaining school buildings.

Libraries are weeding out books, the three principals are discussing how their schools will cooperate and materials are being loaded onto the cloud, as the Cortland Enlarged City School District prepares for its new streamlined form next year.

The district will close Parker and Virgil elementary schools in July and it’s in the early stages of preparing:

• Carts outside of the school libraries are full of excess technology items and books for the taking, because the district is weeding out its excess materials said Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Jeff Craig and Business Administrator Kim Vile.

• The district is also loading materials that will be shared by all the schools onto the cloud, Craig said.

• Staff members are filling out forms identifying their interest in particular assignments for the next school year, said Assistant Superintendent for Pupil and Personnel Services Judi Riley. She hopes that staffing assignments will be final by February.

• Principals of the three new schools are discussing how the schools will work together.

• Superintendent Michael Hoose is running the numbers about how many students the district expects to have for kindergarten through sixth grades and how many teachers will be needed.

• Parent-teacher groups are still talking about ways to work together.

Craig said there are many moving pieces but there is coordination.

The goal with grade centers is to see greater teacher collaboration, stronger curriculums and teaching techniques and a new sense of district identity.

Planning teams are also thinking up ideas to rename the schools and create mascots.

“We want to think of it as we’re making three new schools, not just merging,” Craig said. “So the kids too, when the kids change over they don’t think, ‘We’re already Barry kids now you’re coming to our school,’ Nope, we’re all going to the new school together.”

The district has said it will handle the reduction in staffing mostly through attrition. Craig said teachers can state their preference and that will help the district plan its staffing needs.

Parker Librarian Kim Hay organizes the book stacks at Parker Elementary School Friday in Cortland.

“A kindergarten teacher might say, ‘I’ve been teaching kindergarten for eight years and I’d like to stay in kindergarten,’ “ he said. “But it’s also an opportunity to say, ‘I’ve been in kindergarten but first grade would be interesting to me.’ “

The district may be able to assign extra teachers as instructional coaches, he said — people who share professional development strategies.

By springtime, the identity of the new schools should be formed, Craig said. A conference day in March will bring the three schools together in planning talks.

Craig said many people are involved in the planning — building committees, the district committee and parents.

“We look at those regularly to make sure no question goes unanswered, no suggestion goes unspoken,” he said. “All together with the coordination we provide centrally it will increase the likelihood this is a good transition and the opportunities we’ve been talking about are realized.”