LEWISBORO, N.Y. – Katonah-Lewisboro parents came out in droves once again, this time in John Jay High School’s auditorium Thursday, Oct. 17, as the possibility of Lewisboro Elementary School (LES) closing looms larger than ever.
Several parents used all three of the “public-comment podium minutes” (with a few requesting more time), with concerns over the impact on students, the community as a whole, property values in the district and a rushed process were echoed the loudest.
Since it was a public forum, School Board President Charles Day and Superintendent Paul Kreutzer stressed the fact that school officials were all in “listening mode,” and would not be providing feedback until the next public hearing on Monday, Oct. 21 at 10 a.m. at John Jay Middle School.
“There is a disconnect that you are working toward what the state wants, and not necessarily responding to what your constituents want,” LES parent Terrence Cheng said. “I would argue that your first responsibility is to us, not to the state.”
Throughout the district's dialogue of looking into the closure of LES, it has referenced “efficiency” as one of its main motivators. Many parents are baffled by this, as the savings the closure would save is projected to fall somewhere in between $2,250,000 and $2,960,000 per year (out of a budget that current approaches $115,000,000). This would only save taxpayers somewhere between one and two hundred dollars annually.
But money is only of the parents’ concern.
Lynne Geaney, who has three children in LES and another set to join next year, criticized the school board’s previous statement that the students of the school “would be able to adjust.” Geaney, who moved to the area 18 months ago, said it isn’t that simple.
“Our kids will not just adjust,” she said.
The School Closure Task Force, led by board member Janey Harckham, is working toward making its final recommendation to the Board of Education on Thursday, Dec. 19. The board is scheduled to make its final decision on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2014.
“We don’t know how we’re going to decide yet,” Harckham said. “We need to figure out whether or not we’re doing the closure in 2014 – that’s all it comes down to.”
It's the pace of which the district is moving towards making a decision on the closure process that has parents most upset.
“I’m frustrated with how you’re doing this,” Cheng said. “Dr. Kreutzer said this is an organic process. It shouldn’t be. This is not the first school closure in the United States or New York or Westchester. There are case studies, there’s data, there is a process and road maps that go back decades that could speak to what a community like ours would undergo if this move is premature.”