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September 16, 2009

 

Study to focus on uses, costs of Hartnett Elementary School

By HOLDEN B. SLATTERY
Staff Reporter
hslattery@cortlandstandard.net

Two educational consultants who are conducting a feasibility study of Hartnett Elementary School in Truxton and a 16-person advisory committee met for the first time Tuesday night at Homer High School.
They discussed enrollment in the district and the history of the school, including the annexation of Truxton Central School District to make it part of Homer Central School District.
The consultants hired by the district are Alan Pole, a recently retired superintendent of Delaware-Chenango-Madison-Otsego BOCES, and Phillip Martin, a retired superintendent of the Fayetteville-Manlius Central School District. Pole and Martin are working for Castallo and Silky, an educational consulting group that has an office in Syracuse.
The Board of Education previously decided that the goal of the study, which will cost an estimated $24,000, is to determine how to best use the Hartnett Elementary School building from an instructional and a financial perspective.
The board decided to look into the issue after a community member suggested closing the school during budget workshop meetings in the spring.
Hartnett Elementary School has students from kindergarten through sixth grade who live in Truxton.
Doug Stafford, a Homer resident who volunteered to serve on the committee during budget discussions in the spring, said he joined the committee to look at all the facts and decide whether the district is spending its money wisely or can save money.
Saving money could involve closing the school or making smaller adjustments to save money, he said.
“If that means keeping it open but doing something differently than we currently are, that’s what this investigation is all about, I guess,” Stafford said this morning.
Pole said five to 10 different options could come from the study, including not changing anything. Pole and Martin will make a recommendation to the Board of Education in January.
Enrollment figures and projections will be a key part of the discussion. If enrollment is expected to continue decreasing, it could raise the question of whether the district needs to use the Hartnett Elementary School building, Superintendent of Schools Doug Larison said in August.
If Hartnett Elementary School were to close, students in kindergarten to second grade would go to Homer Elementary School and students from third to sixth grade would go to Homer Intermediate School, Larison said.
From the 1999-00 school year to enrollment counts on the first day of the 2009-10 school year, enrollment in the district has decreased by 13 percent, from 2,490 students in 1999-00 to 2,158 students this year.
Enrollment in kindergarten to sixth grade in the district has decreased by 14 percent over that time, from 1,247 students in 1999-00 to 1,077 students this year.
There are 113 students at Hartnett Elementary School this year, up from 103 in the 2008-09 school year.
Pole and Martin presented a report Tuesday night including information they have gathered about the annexation of Truxton Central School District.
In 1968, the Homer Board of Education received a letter from the state Department of Education, stating that if the districts did not merge in two years, the state would withhold building aid for both districts. Later that year, the annexation passed in a third referendum, 537-181.
Pole and Martin’s report did not include the result of the vote in Truxton, because the information was not available.
The committee, which is made up of community members, school administrators and teachers, will meet in Hartnett Elementary School for its next meeting at 7 p.m. Sept. 22.

 

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