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CLARKSVILLE TO CLOSE

There have been two well-attended public forums and district officials said a mountain of mail has materialized. Signs in yards and by the roadside have popped up urging that Clarksville stay open. Emotions have run high on occasion.

Despite the topic under consideration, the audience packed into the BC Middle School auditorium was largely decorous. There was a brief period of public comment before discussions, and during that time New Scotland Councilman Douglas LaGrange read a letter from Assemblyman John McEneny supporting keeping the school open for many of the reasons community advocates have been raising.

In the letter, the school was described as a "vital community resource."

"In a world of centralized education it provides a small school atmosphere with the advantages of a modern school district," LaGrange read.

It is Clarksville's size that was cited by administrators as a reason for its closure, though. With just over 200 students, there would have likely been nine class sections across six grades next year, one of them a multiage classroom. That model of teaching has proved controversial to some Clarksville parents in the past.

That forces the district to spend a disproportional amount of resources running the school, said school board member Matt Downey. Clarksville students will be sent to Slingerlands and Eagle elementary schools next year, where there are empty classrooms.

"It is a wonderful school, but we have six wonderful elementary schools here," said Downey, whose children attended Clarksville. "There is capacity. Those schools aren't being fully utilized today."

This will enable the district to shed nearly five full-time teaching positions, plus staff and administrative jobs, for a one-time savings of about $800,000. There will also be operational savings of about $80,000 from mothballing the school, though some in the community have questioned the district's maintenance figures.

Throughout its discussion, the board defended a 2003 decision to build Eagle Elementary. Back then, enrollment was projected to keep rising, but a recession and housing slowdown have seen growth stalled throughout the region.

"I could sit here and say maybe we could have done things differently...however the facts and information we had at the time warranted the decisions I and the other board members made then," said Lenhardt.

The board will meet again on Wednesday, April 6, to go over the instructional aspects of the 2011-12 budget. It's also expected a budget will be adopted at that time.""

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