BOONVILLE — Forestport Elementary School will close effective June 30, and its students will attend Boonville Elementary School beginning in the 2019-20 school year.
The closure was approved 7-0 Thursday night by the Adirondack school district Board of Education, concluding a process that has included a board study of the move and objections at recent board meetings by community members including Forestport parents.
“We need to move forward in a positive light for the entire district,” Adirondack district Superintendent Edward Niznik said after the meeting regarding the transition for students, staff and families.
The Forestport school at 10275 State Route 28, which has 79 students in grades K-5, is closing due to factors including overall declining enrollment in the district, efforts to better balance class sizes, and a need for financial savings.
The district previously has estimated that savings from the closing would be about $623,000. Niznik said it would offset most of a projected 2019-20 budget deficit of about $490,000, adding that the budget could include a slight local tax levy increase of less than 1 percent.
Class sizes at the Forestport school are in the 10-15 range, said Niznik, while classes at the district’s other two elementary schools in Boonville and West Leyden are in the 15-to-18-to-20 range. Projected enrollments for 2019-20 for pre-K to grade 5 include 393 students at the Boonville school, and 136 students at the West Leyden school; the district has said the Boonville school has sufficient room for more class sections.
Before the board voted on the closure resolution Thursday, it was addressed by Forestport school parent Miriam Doud who said “we’re...just asking to be more involved in this process...with our children and with the transition.”
Doud acknowledged it “fiscally does make sense” to look at the Forestport school and whether to close it. But “if you truly want us to feel part of the district...we should have a plan beforehand” and “a little more time” taken.
Doud also expressed concern about busing arrangements that would put K-5 students from Forestport on buses with middle and high school students, and about students’ ability to deal with that. Niznik noted following the meeting that Boonville Elementary School begins at 8 a.m. while the start times are 9 a.m. at the Forestport and West Leyden schools. But in the afternoon, for “all of our schools...all kids ride together,” he added.
Parents Ron and Sue Davies, whose three children attended the Forestport school and now are in grades 6, 9 and 10, questioned the board’s decision after the meeting.
Sue Davies said that in 2004 “we went through this” when the district considered closing the Forestport school but decided not to. Ron Davies said that years ago the school district changed attendance zone lines and “evened the schools out,” asking why it could not be done again rather than such a drastic measure.
At the Forestport school, “children had a name” and were “not just a face,” said Ron Davies. He called the school closure a “quick, quiet process,” adding the public had “very little knowledge.”
Niznik, however, said after the meeting that the matter had been studied over the last several months including the board asking for information and materials such as enrollment figures and historical data.
Board President John Abdo said a draft of a transition plan has been distributed to parents, and the board is awaiting feedback. The transition could include opportunities for Forestport Elementary students to “come here” to Boonville Elementary for visits and for the schools’ staffs to “get together,” plus “field trips together” for the students, said Niznik.
There still is “a lot of time to make it happen,” Abdo said of the transition. Regular classes for the 2019-20 school year begin in September.
As for the Forestport school building, the district will seek an appraisal of the property, said Niznik. The district would like to “sell it or lease it,” he commented. It has operated as en elementary school for about 50 years, he said.