Schalmont to close two schools

Woestina and Mariaville's will shut doors in June

After months of deliberation on how to reduce expenses and run the Schalmont Central School District more efficiently, Woestina and Mariaville elementary schools will close in June.

The Schalmont Board of Education unanimously passed a resolution recommended by Superintendent Valerie Kelsey to close the two schools and move all fifth grade students to middle and high school complex. Closing the two schools is estimated to save $1.2 to $1.4 million to help close the budget gap of around $2.4 million for the 2011-12 school year.

This was an extremely difficult and emotional decision for everyone involved, said Kelsey in a statement. "I believe this was a tough decision that needed to be made to ensure a fair balance of quality programs and services for all district students while being sensitive to the needs of our taxpayers."

Gov. Andrew Cuomo's budget is slated to reduce state aid to the district by 9.1 percent, said Kelsey, which amounts to $1.1 million less for the district. Last year's budget saw a reduction of $1.5 million as district officials responded to declining enrollment and mandated costs increases. Closing the buildings will also result in staff being laid off, but it is unclear what those figures will be at this time.

"As we get more into the definitive part of budget process, we will have more details on [layoffs]," said Kelsey.

Closing the two elementary schools will help the school buildings reach closer to their capacity levels. The middle school was only around 75 percent capacity before moving the fifth-graders, said Kelsey.

"It was really bringing our three other buildings more to capacities being more efficient in terms of structures," said Kelsey.

The cost per-pupil will also decrease with the closings, bringing the elementary levels to $7,600 per student, said Audrey Hendricks, spokeswoman for the district. Currently, the cost per pupil at Jefferson is $8,151, and $10,820 per pupil at Mariaville and $10,965 at Woestina.

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