‘Harsh Reality’

SINCLAIRVILLE – The Cassadaga Valley Board of Education voted unanimously Monday night to close the Cassadaga Elementary School effective June 30. Next year all students pre-K through fifth grade will attend the Sinclairville Elementary School.

The vote itself came without comment. One of 10 resolutions on the agenda under school business, the motions were approved as a whole.

The motion read, “Upon recommendation from the superintendent and in consideration of the information supplied by the duly appointed committee established by the district to analyze and evaluate the closure, and after careful review, including recognition of the fact the closure of a school building is considered a type II action under New York’s State Environmental Quality Review Act having no significant impact on the environment, motion to close the Cassadaga Elementary School, effective at the close of business June 30, 2013, and to accordingly have students currently attending the Cassadaga Elementary School attend the Sinclairville Elementary School, effective at the start of the 2013-14 academic year.”

Before the vote, during the recognition of unscheduled visitors, resident Mark Cunningham spoke to the board. He said that he canvassed 65-70 houses. He said 95 percent of the people did not know that the action was contemplated, and all but two favored keeping the building open.

After the vote was taken and near the end of the meeting, S. Carl Perry, the board of education representative to the committee that studied the matter, said that the points on both sides were valid.

“I can’t speak for everyone obviously, but the bottom line for me, unfortunately, is the harsh reality that we have a budget to balance,” he said.

Perry added that this action will get the district closer to balancing the budget without eliminating programs. “We still have pre-K. We still have (kindergarten) through fifth grade. We still have our elementary educational program intact,” he said.

Perry also noted there was a silver lining to this because there are some educational advantages to having all the elementary grades housed under one roof.

Board member Jeanne Oag also thanked the community and the committee.

Board member William Carlson recalled when the last country school in the district closed. “Twenty-three parents came up here and fought like crazy. … It’s very difficult when we change something in the social fabric of a community. … Hopefully this will work out well.”

The committee that studied the closure was made up of teachers, administrators, parents, a trustee from the village of Cassadaga (Ronald DeChard), and a board member (Perry) from the Cassadaga Village Board. That committee issued the report for the board’s consideration.

On March 4 there was a special board meeting for presentation of the report. Estimated cost savings by closing the building as projected by Business Administrator Debra McAvoy total $442,611. Of that figure $387,463 comes from personnel savings which includes two full-time equivalent teachers and 8.23 support staff positions. No administrator is in that figure.

Now that the closure is finalized, the board may appoint a committee to make recommendations about possible uses for the building at its next meeting.