November 27, 2021

Parker plan offered; June council vote possible

Joe McIntyre/file photo

Parker Elementary School in Cortland. File photo.

Cortland’s Common Council may vote next month to buy the soon-to-close Parker Elementary School for $91, said organizers of a plan to use the facility for two child-care groups and a Christian school at a meeting Wednesday to outline and rally support for the plan.

The city would be the landlord, said Kristina Gambitta, a member of the mayor-appointed task force that studied potential uses for the building for about a year. The city would not pay for the operation or maintenance of the building.

“It would be at no cost to city residents,” Gambitta said.

However, long-term financing for capital improvements remains uncertain, although organizers said they would have the $460,000 in initial startup expenses and $166,000 in total annual operating expenses, she said.

The source of the $2 million in projected capital investment expected over the first 10 years is less clear, as organizers said they will seek state and federal grants, Gambitta said.

“I feel confident in the plan,” Rhiannon Maton, a neighbor of Parker School, said after the meeting. During the meeting, she was among those who questioned what would happen if the capital improvement funds could not be raised.

While a vote on the purchase may come June 18, it was unclear when other necessary agreements among the parties would be completed. Organizers said they hope to begin improvements soon and move their operations into the school building as early as the fall.

The Cortland YWCA, CAPCO and would relocate their child care centers to the 50,000-square-foot Madison Street school, as would Cortland Christian Academy on Route 281 in Cortland. The organizations are all seeking space to expand or stabilize their operations.

About 130 people attended the meeting Wednesday in the school’s gymnasium, where several people spoke of the need and importance for child care and the value of an education at Cortland Christian Academy.

The Cortland Enlarged School District is closing Parker and Virgil elementary schools at the end of the school year in response to declining enrollment and to save money on anticipated building repairs in the coming years.

District Superintendent Michael Hoose said the district has the option to deed property to a municipality, such as the city, for a nominal fee, or place it on the market to find a buyer.

The $91 proposed fee represents one dollar for each year that Parker has been open.

The only other interest the district received for the two elementary school buildings was for use as senior housing or unspecified housing, Hoose said.

The three groups could split 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, which had a waiting list of 79 children.

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

• The YWCA could merge two daycare programs, Learning Adventure on Huntington Street and Here We Grow on Homer Avenue, both in the city, to serve 108 children under one roof.