Guilderland Board of Education members have decided to cancel the upcoming focus group that would have discussed the building capacity study, which lacked widespread community support.
School board members on Tuesday, Sept. 23, opted to cancel the upcoming daylong, community focus group scheduled for Nov. 1. The scenarios were originally intended to be the main element the focus group would have discussed. Those scenarios have since been removed from consideration, at least temporarily, following strong pushback from Altamont residents.
One issue that hindered the formation of the focus group was that applications were overwhelmingly coming from Altamont. The group was supposed to be representative of the entire school district, and anyone interested was encouraged to apply.
Board members previously voted 7-2 at their Aug. 19 meeting to set aside those scenarios presented in the building capacity study in favor of community members and the board developing their own options.
Four out of the five scenarios to use space more effectively would have shuttered Altamont Elementary School.
District officials scheduled a community meeting for tonight, Sept. 29, to again discuss factors leading up to the study and review some of the data presented in it. Residents will have an opportunity to ask and provide feedback after an overview of the process to date.
“Everybody will get a chance to speak,” said board member Judy Slack. “If we have time, we will let people come back up.”
A second community meeting will be held in a workshop format Thursday, Nov. 6, from 7 to 9 p.m., at Guilderland High School. District residents will be invited to share ideas for addressing some of the challenges currently being faced by the district regarding building capacity.
Later, an advisory group will be formed to review, discuss and consider ideas generated during the workshop, according to Slack.
“The focus group was one Saturday, and then you are done,” said Superintendent of Schools Marie Wiles, “but this group has a much longer commitment.”
During the public comment portion of the board’s Sept. 23 meeting, there was more criticism lobbed at consultant Paul Seversky’s building capacity study.
Nicholas Fahrenkopf, a six-year school district resident, said he was pleased to see the study’s scenarios set aside.
“I wanted to applaud the board for taking action last meeting to set aside the recommendations that were a part of Dr. Seversky’s study. You would have not been able to have an honest and open conversation about really anything related to that without setting those aside,” he said.
Fahrenkopf, who is an engineer, still worries “the faulty data and projections” in the study will lead the district to eventually close a school. He distributed to the board and audience some information regarding his concerns about Seversky’s enrollment projections.
“Something is wrong here,” said Fahrenkopf. “Unless you all know something that I don’t about these methods, you should have some concerns about basing any important decisions on these projections. These methods appear to be arbitrary, with no degree of confidence shown and no error associated with it.”