Press-Republican

January 23, 2014

City School Board to mull Bailey/Oak merger

By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — Plattsburgh City School Board members are interested in exploring the possibility of combining Oak Street and Bailey Avenue elementary schools.

One of several ideas described in the final report of the district’s building-use study, it was presented at a recent meeting by Dr. William Silky and Dr. Phillip Martin of Castallo & Silky Education Consultants.

IF OAK CLOSED

Their final recommendation was to move the district offices from the Duken Building to the Middle and High schools and lease out the Duken facility for the 2014-15 school year.

The consultants advised against selling the facility, noting it may be needed in the future due to projected enrollment increases at the lower grade levels.

However, before concluding this was the best option, the consultants considered other possibilities, including closing and selling, leasing or maintaining Oak Street School and constructing a 20-classroom addition onto the Bailey Avenue facility. 

This option also called for the the district to sell or swap the Duken Building for City of Plattsburgh park property and relocate District Office functions to either the Oak or Bailey buildings or the middle and high schools.

“Overall, the net staffing savings from our analysis would show about $190,000 if Oak were to close and the youngsters were to be combined with those at Bailey,” Silky said at the meeting.

In addition, he noted, maintaining the Oak Street facility at only minimal heat and light would result in an estimated annual savings of $50,300.

‘CITY LAND NEEDED’

The consultants estimated the annual debt service cost of a 20-classroom addition to Bailey Avenue School at about $100,000 for 20 years, after aid money is factored in.

If this move were to occur, Silky said, the city would have to agree to give up some of the park land bordering the district’s Bailey property in order to accommodate the expansion and additional school parking.

The consultants estimated the annual savings for selling the Duken Building or swapping it for city land at $84,600.

However, Silky said, it was unclear to him how such a swap would work and whether the city would be interested.

And, he noted, “adding classrooms onto Bailey could present some safety concerns in terms of the vehicles that travel in and out in the morning and afternoon.”

‘NOT DESIRABLE OPTION’

Silky said the option was ultimately rejected by the consultants and the Advisory Committee that assisted with the study.

While the move is probably feasible, he said, “we didn’t really see it as a desirable option in the final analysis.”

As for the consultant’s final recommendation, Silky noted a couple of groups have expressed preliminary interest in leasing the Duken Building.

The Advisory Committee, he added, also indicated that moving the district offices out of the facility gradually and leasing out portions of the building might be better than vacating it all at once.

Later in the meeting, City School Superintendent James “Jake” Short told the board that, if it so wishes, he could look into consolidation and leasing options for the Duken Building and report back. 

‘LOOK INTO MERGER’

Board member Ronald Marino said that while the district should explore the consultant’s recommendation, it should also not count out the idea of merging Bailey Avenue and Oak Street elementary schools.

The savings realized by such a move, he noted, would more than pay for the debt service incurred by constructing the 20-classroom addition.

Fellow board member Robert Hall agreed and asked the district to look into the availability of the city land that would be needed.

“It seemed to me like that was the biggest savings ... combining those two schools to one,” he told the board.

The City School Board will meet at 7 tonight in the Duken Building at 49 Broad St. The meeting is open to all.

Email Ashleigh Livingston:alivingston@pressrepublican.com

+++++

THE STUDY

The City School District contracted with Syracuse-based Castallo & Silky Education Consultants to determine the practical capacity of each of its buildings, compare that to enrollment history and student projections and determine how facilities would best be utilized in the foreseeable future.

The consultants met regularly with an Advisory Committee, comprising community members, throughout the course of the study. Find the minutes of each Advisory Committee meeting, as well as a Power Point presentation of the final recommendations to the School Board, at plattscsd.org.