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Niskayuna weighs school closure

Community wary of consolidation efforts, possible savings unclear

Parents and Niskayuna school district community members discuss if one of its tow middle schools should close.

Parents and Niskayuna school district community members discuss if one of its tow middle schools should close. Photo by John Purcell.

— Amidst budget problems and declining enrollment, the Niskayuna Central School District is debating if closing one of its two middle schools is a viable option for next school year.

The Niskayuna Board of Education on Tuesday, Oct. 16, held its second re-visioning meeting at the school in question, Van Antwerp Middle School, to discuss three different closure scenarios. District administrators drafted three scenarios, with an option for breakout groups to create another. Community members also weighed keeping the middle school configuration as is.

The district is facing a $3.8 million gap even if it raises taxes by 2 percent next school year. Superintendent Susan Salvaggio said significant reductions were in this year’s budget and the district wouldn’t want to target the same areas again.

The process is a follow up to last year’s report from educational consultants Jack Berckmeyer and Annette Fante, who studied how the middle schools operated for a year.

Neither of the district’s middle schools could house all of combined enrollment of both schools, Salvaggio said, so the options were drafted for the community to start a discussion. All of the reconfiguration options included closing Van Antwerp.

The first proposal has seventh and eighth grade at Iroquois Middle School, with sixth grade being moved down to each of the district’s five elementary schools. The second option keeps the Iroquois configuration, but moves the entire sixth grade to Rosendale Elementary School. The last proposal has Iroquois serving sixth through eighth grades, but not before sixth grade is taught for two years at Van Antwerp as a “small capital project” is completed at Iroquois.

Many community forum attendees had trouble deciding what, if any, of the options would be best, because the district didn’t provide any figures on potential savings.

“We don’t want it to be about money,” Salvaggio said. “We want the best school program we can have for our kids.”

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