October 20, 2021

Purchase of Parker by city broached

Cortland would buy soon-to-close school as part of development idea

Joe McIntyre/file photo

Parker Elementary School in Cortland. File photo.

Here’s a possible future for the soon-to-be-closed Parker Elementary School on Madison Street in Cortland: as the home for youth programs run by three organizations, CAPCO, the YWCA and the Cortland Christian Academy.

Under this concept, the city of Cortland would buy the Parker school for a nominal price from the Cortland Enlarged City School District, said Alderwoman Kathryn Silliman (D-2nd Ward), who emphasized the idea is not yet a formal proposal.

Such an arrangement, she said, would allow the city to apply for funds that would be otherwise unavailable to the three youth organizations on their own.

All maintenance would be handled by the three youth organizations.

This idea, she announced at Tuesday night’s Common Council meeting, would entail “no cost to taxpayers.”

These ideas will be open to public comment at a May 22 meeting hosted by the task force in charge of the Parker school development project.

Kristina Gambitta, chairwoman of the task force, declined this morning to confirm the details.

“As the task force chair, I feel it is only respectful and responsible to communicate the plan and recommendations back to the community first via direct communication and not through media,” she responded in an email. “In addition, it is very important to the task force to hear any questions and or concerns before we make a recommendation to council for a vote. If the community is not in support of the recommendations we will not take the concept to council for a vote.”

A fourth organization, the Cortland Child Development Center on Pomeroy Street, was initially floated as another possible partner in the development concept, but the group dropped out of the process early on.

“We kind of stepped out of it,” said Nicole Meeker, the center’s assistant director. “There wasn’t enough room for everyone.”

Meeker said her organization is not looking to relocate, but for a space in which to expand its programs, and the Parker space, tentatively occupied by three other groups, wouldn’t have offered them enough space.

“We’d love to be bigger,” she said, “but we’re focusing on our programs here.”

The building is owned by the Cortland school district, which plans to close the school, and Virgil Elementary School, after the academic year ends.

Superintendent Michael Hoose has said the district supports anything that keeps the building from sitting vacant.

The three groups would share the space this way:

• 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, for which it has had a waiting list. 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 day-care 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, however, Yaman has said he doesn’t think the switch would hurt his project., and would be a good fit for the YWCA.