October 28, 2021

Parker task force to meet May 22

Joe McIntyre/file photo

Parker Elementary School in Cortland. File photo.

A task force aimed at finding a use for a soon-to-be vacant city elementary school will host a public meeting later this month to share ideas.

In 2018, the Cortland Enlarged City School District voted to close the 50,000-square-foot Parker Elementary School on Madison Street in July. Virgil Elementary is also closing. Shortly after, the Parker School Task force was formed — comprising neighborhood residents, school board members, city and county officials — to look at ways to continue using the space.

A May 22 meeting, hosted by the task force at Parker School, will look at community involvement regarding ideas for the school, including a presentation before the task force goes before the city Common Council.

“With many months of work, we are finally down to the final stages, getting prepared to go to council with our ideas very soon,” stated an email from the mayor’s office Monday. “The plan is for the occupants to be YWCA, CAPCO, and Cortland Christian Academy, all child-care providers, which would allow them to expand their programs into Parker School.”

However, Kristina Gambitta, a member of the task force, wrote in an email on Monday that is just a concept.

“If there is continued community support for the concept the task force will make a recommendation to council for approval,” she wrote.

The details

What: Meeting on the future of Parker Elementary School
When: 6:30 p.m., May 22
Where: Parker Elementary, Madison Street

Mayor Brian Tobin said information will be shared tonight at the Common Council meeting about the community meeting, tentatively scheduled for May 22, but would not give details.

“It would be imprudent for us to discuss next steps without having a meeting with the public to share the idea of how the structure could be used to benefit the community and keep it youth oriented, to gauge the opinion of the general public,” Tobin wrote. “More information will be available at the general public meeting, but to put information out before then would be detrimental to the process.”

The building is owned by the Cortland Enlarged City School District. Superintendent Michael Hoose said the district supports anything that keeps the building from sitting vacant. “We’re in favor of anything that will support children in the community,” he said. Hoose could not comment on whether the school district plans to keep ownership of the building.

In November, CAPCO, the YWCA and The Child Development Center suggested they could share the space at Parker School with Cortland Christian Academy this way. The Child Development Center on Pomeroy Street, which was originally included in the plan, was not on the list of agencies in the city’s email.

The remaining groups could split the space these ways:

• CAPCO could house 70 to 80 pre-kindergartners in four classrooms, opening up classrooms in other locations to serve the birth- to 36-month age group, which then had a waiting list of 79 people. It could also prepare and serve meals from the kitchen at Parker Elementary School.

• Cortland Christian Academy could move from the space it has outgrown on Route 281, where it has 160 students.

• The YWCA could merge two day-care programs, Learning Adventure on Huntington Street and Here We Grow on Homer Avenue, to serve 108 children under one roof.

The YWCA however, is part of a project looking to redevelop the Homer Avenue Plaza and would consolidate its daycare program there and start a shelter for homeless and abused women.

That $5.5 million project by developer David Yaman at the Homer Avenue Plaza was first announced in 2017.

If the YWCA goes to Parker School, Yaman doesn’t think it would hurt his project. He also thinks Parker School would be a good fit for the YWCA and other child-care agencies. “Right now, we’re working with another group of non-profits to occupy,” he said. “Hopefully it won’t impact it.”