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Community Members Speak Out: LES PTA Offers Guiding Principles

Community members Emily Wein and Laurie Scinicariello, co-presidents of the Lewisboro Elementary School PTA, read their letter to the Katonah-Lewisboro School District's Board of Education at its meeting on November 21, 2013.  Their prepared remarks are reprinted here in full.  To view their presentation, click here

Dear Members of the Board of Education, 

We are writing as the voice of the LES PTA Board, as well as our PTA Study Committee, regarding the potential closure of Lewisboro Elementary School. As you know, the issue of a school closing is one that provokes a passionate response by parents and educators. Though it has at times been a difficult discussion, we hope that the conversation of the past several weeks will help you in your decision making. As a PTA, we have identified four guiding principles on this issue that represent the majority of opinions we have heard on this matter. We ask that while you are taking your first look at the Educational Impact Statement, please keep these principles in mind. 

1. Significant Savings: Only close a school if it is a budgetary necessity. It would not be justified to disrupt an entire community for any lesser reason. Do not close a school simply because the opportunity presents itself for short-term savings. Keep a long-term perspective. Recognize that needing to re-open a school in the future can negate much if not all of the short-term savings, and would be difficult to achieve in a tax-capped environment. 

2. Close at the Right Time: If the Board decides that the savings do justify closing a school, make sure the timing is right. Communities experience a cyclical waxing and waning of population over time. Many variables are at play, not all of which can be accounted for in a demographic study. Unless you are certain that the enrollment trends of the last several years will continue unabated, it would be prudent to delay your decision. Be sure that you have enough time to collect all the necessary data and analyze it fully before a decision is made. If a decision is made to close a school, then allow enough time for an excellent transition for the entire community to take place. 

3. Maintain educational excellence: Do not let efficiency be your driving force for closure unless there are also clear educational benefits to consolidation that cannot be achieved in other ways. 

4. Consider the effect of a closure on the community as a whole. Be aware of the amount of time children are on the bus. Recognize that a child's time spent on a school bus takes away from her time spent learning or participating in other activities. Study how changing busing routes create new traffic conditions that will affect the entire community. Weigh the importance of a neighborhood school in attracting new families, and what its loss will mean for property values. Consider the particular sadness of a school closure to a community with few other focal points. 

Thank you for your hard work . We appreciate the spirit of openness and deliberation in your decision-making process, and for giving us the chance to speak. 

Sincerely, 

Laurie Scinicariello & Emily Wein, LES PTA Co-Presidents 

For more information, visit www.saveklschools.org.

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