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Kirdahy, Westbrook Elementary Schools to Close

BOE announces decision to shutter two schools Thursday night.

It's official: The West Islip School District will close and elementary schools at the end of the school year. 

Thursday night's announcement at the monthly Board of Education meeting was long awaited, and drew mixed reactions from the hundreds of residents who gathered inside the auditorium.  

BOE President Steve Gellar presented the decision and said each trustee considered numerous factors in their individual evaluations including size, space, number of classrooms, marketability, location, traffic conditions, etc.

"I want to thank members of the public, who’ve taken such keen interest in this process," Gellar said.  "This has been a long and arduous process, which I know that we all wish hadn’t been necessary.  Unfortunately declining enrollment coupled with state’s economic crisis make it necessary.  I know that some people will be unhappy with the decision we make tonight but I’m confident that we’ll make the situation work."

The district will consolidate all elementary students into the four remaining schools: Oquenock, Bellew, Manetuck and Bayview.  The closure of the Kirdahy and Westbrook is expected to save the district between $2.4 million and $3.2 million.

"The students that get redistricted will be welcome by their new classmates, the PTAs will reach out to the incoming parents and the administration will do everything they can to help ease the transition," Gellar said.  "In short, we will pull together as a  community as we always do."

The decision to close any school was first made public at a in late October. Nearly 400 people attended at the hearing, at which Superintendent Rick Simon presented a slideshow that displayed several school closure options. The BOE eventually narrowed down all of the options and focused on two elementary schools.  

The next challenge for the district is to cut spending to bring down the 2012-13 projected school budget of $114.1 million, which is a 6.5 percent increase and nearly 11 percent tax levy hike from the current budget.  

"Deciding to close a school is a very emotional issue," Simon said.  "These are, in my opinion, the most challenging and difficult times that schools have faced.  We are working in an era where we are expected to improve the performance of our students, our teachers, our staff, ourselves.

He added, "And yet at the same time, we are facing economic realities that have us spending a great deal of time trying to figure out how to balance a budget and deciding what needs to be reduced or taken away."

Catherine Artusa February 12, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Wendy I am familiar with this, check out this. http://www.vlrc.org/articles/110.html http://www.nogw.com/documents/_07_defeating_delphi.pdf
Rich February 12, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Marcell, when you describe this as "positive" were you referring to the overcrowding, the redistricting of 5,6,7,8,or 9 year old, the loss of computer labs, the decrease in teacher to student ratios, the moving the Special Needs children to a new school, or was it possibly the loss of stability and safety by some of our youngest who are being forced from the only school that the they have only known? Maybe you can elaborate about the positives? Maybe with all these positives, the BOE can be persuaded to share some with the higher grades.
Rich February 13, 2012 at 04:32 PM
It's time for the BOE to unite our community and start the hard work of Saving All of Our Schools for All of Our Children. The community won't accept overcrowding, poor Teacher to Student ratios, loss of computer labs, shuffling around of our Special Needs Children, and the loss of a great Elementary School Program. Rather than closing two ES, their Teachers, and their staff, let's start the long term hard work of solving the budget crisis. Recoup the 1.5 million lost through negligence and insure that the error is not repeated. Trim from the top. We are top heavy with too many Administrators, administrative assistants, and supervisors, some have to be cut. Healthcare benefits for all must be adjusted. $30 co pays is a start, its the standard for many business. No no purchases or updates only fix or repair. If and only if cuts need to be made to the students, they MUST be made evenly across All grades 1-12. Never just one group of students. By spreading the cuts, the cuts are fair, balanced, not overly stressful to any one group.
Anna February 13, 2012 at 05:41 PM
Thanks, Wendy. I have seen this used quite a lot in this town. I never knew it had a name. Gerry and Catherine, I absolutely agree - well said. And I have witnessed their inappropriate behavior myself on many occasions. They cannot expect the respect of the community if they do not show it in kind.
Rich February 14, 2012 at 05:29 PM
Repost Unfortunately it's all up to our BOE now. If they want to work with the community to save our schools, we are ready to work with them. If they are unwilling to reverse this decision and insist on closing two ES, they will be putting passage of the school budget in jeopardy. Each year passing the school budget can be difficult. There are taxpayers who won't vote for any increase and Seniors who can no longer afford the increases. Now the BOE will be now be adding over 2000 digruntled ES parents to potential NO votes or NO SHOW votes. How are they going to get the ES parents to support the budget, when their children's schools have been closed, they are going to be packed 29 to a classroom, they've increased teacher to student ratios, elimatinated computer labs, may eliminate indoor playgrounds, may have put children in trailers, and broke a promise with the Special Needs children that the would graduate from Westbrook. Just how are they going to get the support of the ES parents when they totally stuck it to their kids???

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