October 28, 2021

Parker project on hold

Colin Spencer/staff reporter

A car is driven past the the former Parker School in Cortland on Friday. Plans for the school, which closed in June 2019, include housing an early child care center.

The city of Cortland’s plan to buy the former Parker School on Madison Street and turn it into an early child-care center have been put on hold as the city and the two non-profits who would occupy the building deal with the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Brian Tobin said.

Cortland Enlarged City School District voters in a referendum June 2 approved, 2,196-to-588, authorizing the sale of the former school to the city.

Tobin said at the time the next step would be for members of the city Common Council, CAPCO and the YWCA — the two non-profits looking to make use out of the building -to discuss details, including the lease, before bringing it to a vote before the council.

Late last week, Tobin said the project is still on hold and will not be brought to the council until CAPCO and YWCA are ready to move forward.

“COVID has made everything more challenging,” he said in a text message. “Right now, there is nothing additional.”

Tobin also said an increase in demand for child care would need to happen before the project was brought back to council.

“With COVID, the demand is less,” he said.

“CAPCO and the YWCA are still working together with the city towards making Parker a reality,” Lindy Glennon, the executive director of CAPCO, said in an email Friday. “We hope to move it forward as soon as possible. We haven’t stopped that work, just had to slow it to respond to other demands.”

She said that responding to the needs of the community and working parents during the pandemic have been some of the organization’s biggest priorities though she did not specify further.

Glennon did note that childcare was already stressed within the city prior to the pandemic but the pandemic has intensified the need for childcare.

“The Parker School project will be needed more than ever as we recover from the pandemic and work to rebuild families and our community in the future,” she said.

The Cortland Enlarged City School District closed the 50,000-square-foot building in June 2019 as it consolidated five elementary schools into three buildings; Virgil Elementary also closed.

The city has been allocated $500,000 from Empire State Development for the project.

City officials previously said the project would require $2 million in capital expenses over 10 years, as well as $460,000 in start-up expenses and $166,000 in annual operating costs.