NISKAYUNA, N.Y. – School board leaders and concerned parents met on Tuesday night to discuss the possibility of closing an elementary school in the Niskayuna Central School District.
The Board of Education decided on Tuesday night that they will make the final decision at the next meeting on February 4. Board members said they still have questions and do not feel ready to vote.
The Niskayuna school district has been under financial strain due to a lack of state funding and a rise in pension costs. As a result, school officials said they want to reconfigure the school district and cut jobs.
Niskayuna Superintendent Susan Salvaggio said whether or not they close a school will likely come down to capacity issues and how K-5 students are distributed throughout the district.
Birchwood Elementary School is the school officials are considering closing. The superintendent said closing the school will help close the budget gap the district has developed over the last five years.
Lynn Boler has three children who attend the elementary school.
She described the school as "excellent, beautiful. I couldn't ask for anything better from my kids."
She said she is shocked closing a school is even being considered.
"Initially I just thought I needed an explanation; I needed a reason," she said.
Salvaggio said Birchwood is ideal to close because it would have the least impact on students. Birchwood holds 276 of the nearly 1,700 K-5 students in the district. It also has the lowest enrollment and the least space.
"I think they're not thinking far enough ahead," Boler said. "I think closing any school is short-sided."
If Birchwood is closed, the district said more than 500 students would be relocated among the remaining elementary schools, and $415,000 dollars would be saved.
Evan Brooksby is another concerned parent. He thinks the savings from closing a school doesn't translate into good fiscal health.
"I don't think the district is in a position where that needs to happen, yet," he said.
Salvaggio said if the board votes to close a school, it is in the best interest of students and long-term health of the district.
"We will attend to every child, and every family, in every zone of Niskayuna," she said. "We are one school."
The Board of Education anticipates making a final decision on February 4 in order to allow enough time for a healthy transition that won't disrupt school next fall if Birchwood Elementary closes.