Press-Republican

June 24, 2013

City School approves shared-services, building-use studies

Plattsburgh, Beekmantown districts will look at ways to share services

By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON Press-Republican
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — Plattsburgh City School will undergo a shared-services study with Beekmantown Central School and will also review its own buildings.

At a recent meeting, the City School Board voted unanimously in favor of entering into a joint contract with Beekmantown to have the education consulting firm Castallo and Silky investigate potential areas of collaboration between the districts.

Beekmantown School Board signed on to participate in the study, which is expected to begin this summer, at a meeting earlier this month.

The process will take about six months to complete and will cost $20,000, plus reimbursement of consultant expenses, all of which the districts will split.

BUILDING STUDY OK’D

In addition, the City School has voted to hire the same firm, based in Syracuse, to examine the use of district buildings, including Momot, Bailey Avenue and Oak Street elementary schools, Stafford Middle School, Plattsburgh High School and the Duken Administration Building.

For this study, which will cost $25,000 and is also expected to begin this summer, consultants will assess areas such as the long-term maintenance needs of facilities and how buildings might be best utilized for cost effectiveness, as well as future enrollment projections.

CITIZENS PANEL

A citizen advisory committee will be formed and will work closely with the consultants through the process.

“The consultants could gather the data, they could provide their perspective of what goes on in other communities, but you need to have the community involved in order to be able to handle the flow of information; otherwise, you will deal with rumor,” board member Fred Wachtmeister told meeting attendees before the board voted in favor of moving forward with the study.

SCHOOL CLOSURES

While Wachtmeister said he supported the endeavor, he noted that he would not support closing one of the district’s neighborhood schools, should that ever be proposed.

“I stated at the last meeting, and I’m going to state it here again: I will not be in favor of closing any of our schools,” he said.

Fellow board member Steve Krieg, on the other hand, said he wouldn’t be afraid to look at consolidating elementary schools.

Even though his children attended neighborhood schools — Bailey Avenue and Oak Street — they still lived too far away to walk

to either location, he said, and in central school districts, where there is only one elementary school, students often live several miles away from the facility.

Still, Wachtmeister said, “if somebody were to be living on Bailey Avenue, and they had to go to the south end of the city (for school), it would make a difference. Or if they lived in the Momot zone and had to go to Bailey, it’s a long distance.”

In addition, he noted, the only district property that could accommodate a centralized elementary school is behind the High School, where the district’s sports complex is located.

Board member Clayton Morris stated at the meeting that he, too, would be opposed to closing a school and knew of no property large enough to house a centralized elementary building.

“As far as the study goes, I absolutely do not agree with that (closure concept),” he said. “I do not see us closing a building. I see us maybe adding someplace.”

Krieg, Wachtmeister, board member Robert Hall, Board President Leisa Boise and Vice President Tracy Rotz voted in favor of the study, while Morris voted against it.

Board members Amelia Goerlitz, Steven Sullivan and Dr. David Stone were not present at the meeting.

RECOMMENDATIONS

City School Superintendent James “Jake” Short told the Press-Republican in a separate interview that while the consultants could recommend building consolidations, they may also recommend expansion within the district.

As well, he said, the firm will consider the input of the citizens advisory committee when making its final recommendations.

“I’m looking forward to involving our district in these studies and eager to use the information to advance ourselves forward,” Short said.

During the public-comment portion of the meeting, before any action was taken, Plattsburgh resident Walter Chmura told board members that if they did move forward with the shared-services and building-use studies, he hoped they would act on the firm’s recommendations.

“I don’t mean on everything, but at least make it cost effective,” he said.

Email Ashleigh Livingston:

alivingston@pressrepublican.com