Press-Republican

August 25, 2013

Plattsburgh City School kicks off building study

By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
Press-Republican

---- — PLATTSBURGH — The Plattsburgh City School District’s building-use study is now underway.

Heading the project are Bill Silky and Phil Martin of the Syracuse-based education consulting firm Castallo and Silky, who met with a district Advisory Committee for the first time recently to discuss the process.

“There’re two over-arching purposes for this particular study,” Silky told attendees at the public meeting held at the Duken Building.

The first, he said, is to determine the practical capacity of each of the district’s school buildings and compare that to enrollment history and future enrollment projections.

“What we want to do, of course, is to figure out: Do you have too much capacity, just about the right amount or not enough capacity?” Silky said.

With that information in mind, he continued, the firm will determine whether it’s feasible to reduce the number of school buildings while maintaining a quality education program, how the facilities might be best utilized and if any building modifications should be made.

ADVISORY COMMITTEE

The second purpose of the study is to examine the Duken Building, which houses District Office functions, to determine whether its contents could be relocated elsewhere.

“Of course, one option always is to remain as is,” Silky said.

The study will cost the district $25,000, and the City School opted to establish the Advisory Committee, representing a broad spectrum of the school community, to advise the consultants and communicate information to the public through the process.

Committee members are: Plattsburgh City Police Lt. Scott Beebie; retired educator and district resident Walter Chmura; City School library assistant Christina Coryea; David Coryer, director of staffing services at ETS; The Development Corporation President and CEO Paul Grasso; Michael Haley, City School census taker and attendance supervisor; John Haubner, retired City School technology coordinator; community member Shera Marston; City School teacher and parent Mary Lou Megarr; Adam Whitbeck, licensed Realtor with Coldwell Banker Whitbeck Associates; City School parent Amy Senecal; and Oak Street School Principal Carrie Zales.

‘WILL BE TRANSPARENT’

The primary duties of the consultants, Silky said, are to conduct the study in a fair manner, supply an unbiased perspective and produce notes covering each committee meeting, as well as the final study report.

“We don’t really have any stake in the outcome other than we want to do a good job,” he said.

In addition, Silky noted, the consultants will ensure there is transparency with the public throughout the process.

“This study is going to be done completely openly,” he said.

The firm’s final recommendations, Silky added, will present a plan for building use for the next five or more years and be educationally sound, fiscally responsible, realistic and sensitive to the cultural context of the City School District.

“Foremost is anything we come up with ought to benefit student learning,” he said.

While the consultants would like to hear from special-interest groups, Silky noted, they will act independently of them.

PROJECTED ENROLLMENT

Also during the meeting, he and Martin presented their preliminary future-enrollment projections for the City School, which they calculated on the district’s live birth rate.

The data, subject to change depending on actual 2013-14 enrollment figures, indicates the district’s total kindergarten-through-12th-grade enrollment is projected to grow from 1,808 students in 2013-14 to 1,900 in 2018-19.

The consultants noted that they would also take into consideration how local industry and housing might impact future enrollment numbers.

“We’re going to do our best to get a handle on any residential development, as well as commercial development,” Silky said.

The consultants also presented floor plans of Bailey Avenue, Oak Street and Momot elementary schools and breakdowns of how spaces within those facilities are being used.

Silky said the study-process, enrollment and space-utilization information presented at the meeting will be made available on the district’s website, plattscsd.org. As of Friday, it was not yet there.

OAK STREET SCHOOL TOUR

During the public-comment period at the close of the meeting, City School Board member Ron Marino said he believed the study to be necessary.

“I think if we have excess buildings ... certainly we can consolidate and thereby save money ... and at the same time, if we have excess land that can be sold and be put on the tax rolls, everybody wins,” he said.

The Advisory Committee is scheduled to meet again from 6 to 8 p.m. on three Wednesdays: Sept. 18, Oct. 16 and Nov. 20. All meetings are open to the public.

The September session, originally set at Bailey Avenue School, has been relocated to Oak Street with a tour of the facility at 5:15 p.m. Topics of discussion will include the elementary program and school facility conditions.

Email Ashleigh Livingston:alivingston@pressrepublican.com