Letter to the Editor: The Onteora school district plans for Tuesday's big vote

On Tuesday, February 28, the Onteora Board of Education is scheduled to vote on one of three possible reconfiguration plans for the district. Two of the proposed plans call for the closing of the Phoenicia Elementary School, either with clustering of the elementary grades at Bennett and Woodstock, or keeping Bennett and Woodstock as K-6 schools. Under the third plan, dubbed the "bookends" plan, all three schools would remain open, and elementary grades would be clustered, with grades K-3 at Phoenicia and Woodstock, and 4-6 at Bennett.

In this letter to the editor, the Onteora Board of Education explains its plans for Tuesday's vote. - Julia Reischel

Dear Editor,

On February 28, at a special meeting to be held in the Middle School/High School Auditorium, the Board of Education of the Onteora Central School District will vote to approve the selected configuration for our District in the coming year. The ballot will offer three reconfiguration plans for the district elementary schools as presented to the Board for consideration by Superintendent Dr. Phyllis McGill.

Two of these plans call for the closure of one of the District’s three currently open elementary schools. Two of these plans call for some form of Grade Clustering (sometimes known as the Princeton Plan). All three have been presented under the banner of ‘Improving the student experience and improving student learning with reduced financial resources.’

This particular discussion of reconfiguration began in earnest with the commissioning of a Long Range Planning Report by outside financial consultants Bernard P. Donegan, which was presented to the Board at its September 29 meeting. A first detailed presentation on Future District Planning was made by the Superintendent at the December 13 meeting; a revised presentation made at the January 10 meeting; and at the Board’s request, a presentation on what the school day would like for Intermediate (4-6) Grades in a single school was made at the February 7 meeting. The Board has dedicated a part of each of its meetings over the last few months to discuss this issue, ask relevant questions of the Administration, make requests that would mitigate some of the transition issues, and to request further information. It has also engaged in public forums at each Elementary School and extended Public Be Heard sessions.

To ensure that elected representatives and the public alike have remained fully informed of the proposed changes, the Superintendent, typically with the Board President, has attended meetings of the Town Boards of Hurley, Olive, Shandaken and Woodstock, met with all the PTAs, and met with other civic groups at their request. The Board would like to thank all the members of the public, whether or not they have children in the District, who have written and/or commented in public to share their views on the reconfiguration plans.

The Board of Education fully understands and recognizes the gravity of reconfiguration. Every plan calls for every part of the elementary community to undergo considerable change, whether it be the closure of their zoned school, the addition of a large number of students into their zoned school, or the allocation to a newly zoned school for their elementary age child next year, or in following years. Should a school configuration be adopted that requires cross-age busing, the Superintendent will provide a report to the Board of Education on District plans to ensure positive bus behavior.

Once the vote has taken place, the Board has a responsibility to ensure, via the Superintendent, that the reconfiguration is carried out smoothly, and that parental concerns are met and addressed appropriately. The Board of Education is committed to ensuring that whichever plan is approved, the children’s quality of education will improve as a result. The Board has faith that the different elements of the Onteora community will also come together, as they already do in the higher grades, to help the students realize a smooth and successful transition.

Board of Education of the Onteora Central School District

Our previous coverage of the Onteora reconfiguration plan:

Decision on school closing looms for Onteora School Board.

Previous letters: A vote for the "bookends" plan for Onteora

Onteora reconfiguration: A Bennett parent pleads for a two-school solution