Katonah-Lewisboro officials have ruled out a scenario that involves closing two of the school district's four elementary schools, while also expressing particular interest in shuttering Lewisboro Elementary School (LES).
The major updates, revealed at Thursday night's school board
meeting, were prompted by the district's School Closure Task Force
getting new data and looking at what is feasible for the 2014-15
The 2-school realignment was dropped because there would not be enough capacity for students next year, Superintendent Paul Kreutzer explained to the board. Two of the district's schools, Katonah Elementary School (KES) and Increase Miller Elementary School (IMES), have 27 rooms, while LES and Meadow Pond Elementary School (MPES) have 25. Use the buildings with the most capacity would still fall short of a projected demand for 62.5 classrooms, or a deficit of 8.5.
believe that measures that we would take to come anywhere closer to
that would be less than desirable,” Kreutzer said, adding there
would be almost no room left.
The scenario envisioned also included moving fifth grade to John Jay Middle School and even that subtraction was not enough to help with capacity.
Kreutzer also addressed the possibility of having two schools closed further out into the future than the next year, which he does not think is something the current board can do because it cannot bind its successor boards.
As a result of the the factors presented, only the 1-school scenario remains viable. This scenario, which means keeping fifth grade at the elementary school level, involves a demand of 77.5 rooms. Using the two 27-room buildings and one of the 25-room structures produces 79 available rooms while using the reverse lineup results in 77.
LES, meanwhile, is attracting further attention as a closure candidate because of space and disruption factors looked at.
Kreutzer noted that in closing the "book-end" schools, which are KES and MPES, there would be a “tidal wave of students.” Closing either of them could have ripple effects into each remaining school. For example (and vice versa), closing KES would mean sending kids to IMES, which would then mean taking some of its kids out and placing them into LES, with some students from that school then being switched to MPES.
The fact that KES and IMES have more student capacity, plus LES' low energy efficiency compared to peer schools, were also factors raised.
Kreutzer also indicated running a scenario on paper of an LES closure, which would involve looking at redrawing attendance lines and populating the district's remaining buildings.
Where to place LES kids could potentially be done in multiple ways that will need to be looked at. One scenario would involve splitting the student body in half, with some going to IMES and others going MPES. Another would mean broader redistricting for accommodating population the population, which could involve changing the boundaries between IMES and KES.
School board member Janet Harckham, who is on the task force, noted that while it has not been decided that LES would be closed, she explained that facts are leading in a "direction" that shows what would be a “more logical place to go.”
Kreutzer, intending his remarks for local media present at the meeting, reiterated that the district is not closing LES but that it is just looking at the possibility.
“We have more homework to do," he said.
Board Vice President Marjorie Schiff, who is also on the task force, expressed similar sentiments, saying its work done “is determine options that we should no longer be talking about with this board."
One major aspect that will receive attention is bussing times, with the intent being to avoid longer average ones. Schiff explaining that looking at dismantling LES routes and creating new ones could be looked at.
Thinking about the future, Board President Charles Day wondered whether closing LES would be the least disruptive option in two or three years from now. Assistant Superintendent for Business Michael Jumper replied that while it can't be known where people will live then, there are enrollment projections and that they show the disruption would be comparable.
Board member Stephanie Tobin wondered whether the district would be limiting itself by deciding on a school to close next year if in a few years from now another closure is considered if enrollment falls further than it already has. Kreutzer replied that the same study could be done again and mentioned reviewing a reopening of the closed school. He advised that the district should not sell its buildings.
If a school were to be reopened, Kreutzer explained, there would be added costs because it would mean restoring positions that were eliminated from the closure.
Non-task force member board colleagues gave positive feedback for the work being done, which means that the group can proceed further with its trajectory.
Three district residents spoke out with some questions and concerns about the process.
Lalenya Siegel, a mother with two kids in LES, felt that there would not be enough transition time if there is closure for the 2014-15 school year. She also was wary of making the change so soon after a curriculum switch for Common Core learning, which she noted students and teachers are adjusting to.
“It feels like we're rushing. We're rushing the process.”
Lisa Valdes and Scott Posner, parents of MPES students, asked what the savings would be used for.
Valdes also noted that the housing market has improved, bringing up a scenario, in turn, of rising enrollment. A precipitous drop in student enrollment is a reason for why the school board is considering a closure.
Residents will have another chance to give their thoughts at a public hearing on the issue. It will be held on Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. at John Jay Middle School's theater and will be the first of four that is scheduled for the next two months. The task force plans to have a report ready for the full board by Dec. 19 and a vote from the board is expected in January.