The closing of Parker and Virgil elementary schools brought new challenges for the Cortland Enlarged City School District and were among 2019’s biggest stories in education.
Other top education stories included renovations at several school districts and a big football game for SUNY Cortland.
Parker and Virgil elementary schools closed following the end of the 2018-19 school year due to declining enrollment and as a way to save money.
Students in grades kindergarten through six were redistributed among the three remaining primary schools in the district: Barry Primary, Smith Intermediate and Randall Middle.
The new arrangement in its initial days caused busing delays for students, some of whose bus rides lasted longer than an hour, and more than two hours in some cases.
Delays also occurred for parents who picked up their children directly from the schools.
District officials said they were not prepared to handle the number of parents requesting changes in how their students were dismissed. They also said further confusion was caused by software incompatibilities between the individual schools and the transportation office, in which data on student dismissal entered into one system did not appear in the other.
Additionally, officials failed to anticipate how long Barry Primary School would take to dismiss, leading to delays elsewhere.
Transportation problems were largely resolved after the first couple of days.
“Things are going better,” Superintendent of Schools Michael J. Hoose said in October. “We’re still refining it, but it’s exponentially better than it was.”
With the Parker Elementary School closed for the 2019-20 school year, the question of what to do with the building became another top story in education this year.
The Cortland Common Council had been considering buying the school and the city was awarded $500,000 for renovations from the New York State Regional Economic Development Councils.
The building would house child care programs run by the YWCA and Cortland County Community Action Program as well as administrative office space for the city.
The building is still expected to require $2 million in capital expenses over 10 years, $460,000 in start-up expenses and $166,000 in annual operating expenses. Because of bond restrictions, any fees charged to the YWCA and CAPCO could only cover operational expenses.
The council is expected to vote on the purchase Jan. 7. If this occurs, the board of education could vote Jan. 14 to sell the school, putting the matter up to public referendum.
Elsewhere in the greater Cortland area, several schools began or approved projects to upgrades facilities.
Voters at Dryden Central School District approved renovations to Volante Field, including putting in a new artificial turf field next year.
Renovations have begun to renovate the auditorium at Cortland Junior-Senior High School.
Homer Elementary School added swings and a seesaw in September for children ages 4 and under to use after the a safety inspection found the previous equipment was suitable for children ages 5 and older.
History was made for 2019’s Cortaca Jug game between SUNY Cortland and Ithaca College as over 45,000 fans attended the game, a record attendance for a National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III football game. The game, which was held at MetLife Stadium in Rutherford, New Jersey, beat the previous record of 37,355 tickets sold for a Division III game.
Ithaca won 32-20.