School Board Votes 5-2 To Close Lewisboro Elementary

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A large crowd turns out for the final vote on the closure of Lewisboro Elementary School. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
The Katonah-Lewisboro School Board votes 5-2 in favor of closing Lewisboro Elementary School. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Former Assemblyman and Golden's Bridge resident Robert Castelli asks the school board to wait one year before closing a school. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly
Michelle Zakin gets emotional as she pleads with the school board to show Lewisboro Elementary School children some respect. Photo Credit: Brian Donnelly

CROSS RIVER, N.Y. -- With a 5-2 vote Thursday night, the Katonah-Lewisboro School Board elected to close Lewisboro Elementary School for the 2014-15 school year.

The votes in favor of closing Lewisboro Elementary came from Board President Charles Day and board members Janet Harckham, Richard Stone, Stephanie Tobin and Peter Treyz.

The votes against were from Jeff Holbrook and Marjorie Schiff, who had said earlier that she believes the three-elementary school model is best for the district but wants to wait one year to better prepare the community.

“As we sit here tonight following the (Board of Education) vote, we are sure all of you are feeling like we are - that although the vote was no surprise, it is certainly still a shock,” said a joint statement by Susan Lasota and Kathy Martin of Save Katonah-Lewisboro Schools, a parent group formed in protest of the closing.

The group started a petition that garnered more than 1,000 signatures. 

"Fundamentally, closing an elementary school is about aligning our building utilization and our student enrollment," Tobin said in a statement before the vote. "It would be fiscally irresponsible to continue to operate four elementary schools, spending money on administrative and non-educational employees when the same or better academic experience can be delivered inside three elementary schools."

Districtwide enrollment has dropped from a high of 4,112 students in 2002 to 3,374 in 2013-14. Closing Lewisboro Elementary will result in a recurring savings of about $1.7 million, not including the attrition of staff that would have happened regardless of a school closure.

Day said that 89 percent of classes in the remaining three elementary schools would be at or under the goal of 20 students for kindergarten-through-second grade and 25 for third-through-fifth grade.

Tobin also said that if the district were to extend kindergarten to full day in the fall - which it has said it intends to and which will cost about $900,000 - it must reallocate money.

“In other words, you have to trade full-time employees for full-time employees,” she said.

While full-day kindergarten will require five more teachers, about 15 to 20 employees stand to lose their jobs as a result of this consolidation.

“We believe that closing LES is the wrong decision for the community in both short term and long term,” said the parent group’s statement. “However, as parents, we now need to rally around our children who stand to lose the most if their beloved elementary school is boarded up in June. We need to ensure the final redistricting plan has our best interests in mind. We need to ensure all transition efforts are seamlessly integrated and our voice is actively heard through this process.”

The school board said now that it has decided to close the school, it can now consider what to do with the building, which it will do by forming a committee. 

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Comments (6)

warriors:

what do you mean not residents?

JS84:

If you have read the names of the people on the petition you will see that many were ex-residents , family and friends of residents, and people such as the Democratic candidate for governor of New Mexico who sympathized with the petitioners. Can all those people vote in our school election?

Native New Yorker:

Time for the 1000 petitioners to vote for new school Board members; seems like Mrs. Harckham and her cabal need a rest from "governing".

JS84:

Might be a little difficult because many are not even residents.

Tom Belbin:

That doesn't change the fact that many of them ARE residents. And they're not whackos. And they vote.

JS84:

Opponents of the closure hammered the BOE for incorrect numbers and keeping their feet to the fire was the correct course but throwing the 1000 signatures around as if they are all residents was just as bad or worse.
Let's move on for the good of all students in K-L and I think we can agree on that.

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