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Document: Task Force Open to LES Closure

Major review document is released before school board meeting.

Patch File Photo: Lewisboro Elementary School.
Patch File Photo: Lewisboro Elementary School.
Katonah-Lewisboro's School Closure Task Force highlighted several advantages that it believes would result from closing Lewisboro Elementary School (LES), according to a major document released in advance for Thursday's school board meeting.

The document, which is called a draft educational impact statement, includes an examination of all major categories pertaining to LES, including redistricting, transportation, academic and fiscal.

In the document's summary, the task force highlights what it feels would be academic benefits of going from four to three elementary schools.

"Class size will become more equitable across the district, class sizes will be more stable, and this should result in fewer grade‐level changes for staff year‐to‐year. Also, more sections on each grade level will provide more options for class placement which will result in opportunity to learn and grow with different students. Teachers will have more opportunities to collaborate with others on their grade level because there will no longer be singleton classroom teachers (Kindergarten) on a grade level. This is particularly important in the implementation and refinement of Common Core curriculum."

It continues with the following: "Additionally, special area teachers such as art, music and physical education will not be traveling as much among three buildings resulting in a more efficient delivery of instruction by recapturing some of the time that would have been spent traveling. When special area teachers are able to be located in fewer buildings, they can also become more involved in the school community which leads to better learning for all." 

In the financial section of the document, an estimated recurring savings of around $1.9 million is given, although the cost of a potential addition of full-day kindergarten is not included. 

Additionally, there would be costs just for the transition, including moving the district's office space out of Increase Miller Elementary School (IMES). The total costs for transition work, according to the document, are not expected to go above $95,000. Possible new locations for the district office include the John Jay campus or LES itself, according to the document.

The document also addresses the possibility of breaching the property tax cap if LES has to be reopened in the future due to a reverse in the trend of declining enrollment. The cap limits how much the tax levy, which is tax revenue, can be increased from one school year to the following, although school districts can get it breached by a 60-percent majority in the public's vote on a budget.

There is no exemption that can be included in the tax cap for reopening a school, the document notes, although capital work involved could get one.

Forecasting a tax cap breach scenario cannot be done, the document notes

"It is impossible at this time to estimate a value associated with how much the tax levy (the value that the tax cap is based upon) might be impacted by the reopening of the Lewisboro Elementary School. Other expenditure considerations would need to be known in order to determine the exact amount by which the cap might need to be exceeded." 

If LES is reopened the additional cost would be about the same amount as the annual savings.

The document also acknowledges challenges involved with closing LES. They involve disruption of affected families and staff reassignment. A series of remedies are suggested for dealing with it, which is written in the following paragraph:

"Closing a school will require strong leadership, careful planning, and coordinated communication to ensure the establishment of school cultures that reflect a hybrid of traditions and a newly created culture at each elementary school that can be experienced positively by all who become part of its community and the District at large. Consolidating our elementary schools also will require careful planning around the possible future utilization and maintenance of the building. Efforts should be made to mitigate the potential negative impacts of school closure on the hamlet of South Salem."

Suggested transition measures include having students see their possible classmates and new schools; the creation of "blended or new traditions" for the schools' communities; providing support for students who could be split from their friends.

In a proposed redistricting model included with the document, 165 LES kids would be transferred to IMES; 118 students would switch to Meadow Pond Elementary School (MPES), while 67 would go to Katonah Elementary School (KES). Additionally, around 46 IMES students would be switched to KES, with the reason being to make room at that school for the LES students.

The proposed redistricting map shows a new IMES attendance zone covering a large swath of western and central Lewisboro, including the LES site in South Salem. The zone for MPES would include the far-eastern portion of the LES area, which includes a small portion of Pound Ridge, while the KES zone would expand so that its new boundary would be north of the Cross River Reservoir.

The redistricting would still be subject to modification, however, and the school board is advised to approve a final plan for it by February.

Under the proposed redistricting, enrollment is projected to increase at all three schools. The data show it is projected to go from 373 to 490 at KES, from 356 to 470 at IMES and from 307 to 426 at MPES.

Multiple busing models are explored in the document. Numbers for routes show a shift towards longer bus times. For exampled, in one scenario the number of routes with at least 21 minutes or more goes from 363 to 414, while routes that are below that time decrease from 709 to 653. However, if two new routes are added, then this would be mitigated to an extent, leading the number of routes of at lest 21 minutes to increase to 384 instead of 414. 

According to the document, the school district is expected to be able to need just three elementary schools for at least five years, based on the demographic study done by Statistical Forecasting LLC.

Superintendent Paul Kreutzer and school board member Janet Harckham - she chairs the task force - will present the document to the full school board at Thursday's meeting. It will be at 7:30 p.m. at John Jay High School's library. 

Copies of the document and associated material are at this link on the district's website. To search for it, go the "Meetings" tab, look for the Dec. 5 meeting agenda. The document will be in an agenda section called "Discussion/Review - Draft Educational Impact Statement" and include supplemental items.
Carmen Delessio December 04, 2013 at 08:04 AM
If you look at the redistricting document, Appendix R, Table 1 it says that Katonah is getting 117 more students. That document contains redistricting details.
rene December 04, 2013 at 09:27 AM
In the article above, a comment is made about "careful planning". How can the board state that careful planning has been done if this was pushed through in less than 1 year time. If the board and administration knew that there was a possibility of a school closure in KL's future, why was tax dollars spent relocating the district offices only 1-2 yrs ago and now quoting a price tag of $95,000 to move them again. That's a perfect example of the kind of planning/mistakes it seems our administrators make. Monies that could have been spent on our children instead of new offices. Consolidating our schools only leave a cushion of a couple of classrooms. Any increase of enrollment, we would have crowded classrooms. Why has no one addressed the issue of the low income housing units that I have heard is under construction in Vista and proposed for Goldens Bridge? These housing units could result in an immediate over crowding of our schools, then what? Careful planning, I think not!
Michelle December 04, 2013 at 11:04 AM
So are we turning our community upside down just because one guy said that in five years we will have x number of students? Or did they have several demographers do analyses? However no study can predict human free will and therefore it's like making plans bc a psychic said something was going to happen. That being said, if they close a school and it makes this school system less desirable, then I suppose yes, we will have lower enrollment.

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