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The tortured recent history of the Narrowsburg School

By Fritz Mayer
June 25, 2014

NARROWSBURG, NY — While most people agree that the Narrowsburg School was a positive force in the community for decades, the recent history of the school, or more precisely the history of the people trying to determine its future, is a tale of dreams and broken promises.

After the merger of the Jeffersonville-Youngsville, Narrowsburg and Delaware Valley school districts in 2000, officials of the newly formed Sullivan West School District were so optimistic about the future of the district that they proposed building a brand new high school and renovating two existing schools. Voters approved the plan, which called for spending about $5 million to update the Narrowsburg School.

Just two years after the renovation was complete, in 2005, the Narrowsburg and Delaware Valley Schools were mothballed because of declining student enrollment. The following year, the New York State Comptroller’s Office said taxpayers’ money was wasted on the renovation of the two schools, and officials should have been aware that enrollment in the district was declining, and that therefore the new high school was not needed.

The late Noel van Swol, then a member of the Sullivan West School Board, said at the time that the report vindicated his position that the new high school should never have been built. He also said the New York State Education Department held some of the blame, because it never should have approved the funds that allowed the school to be built. “The incompetence goes to the highest levels of state government,” he said.

Former superintendent Michael John-drow, however, said at the time projections were for enrollment to remain stable or decline only slightly, and that no one could have known the district would lose 250 students.

Fast forward to 2009 when, with the district paying $345,000 a year to maintain the two closed schools and keep the heat at minimal levels, the board opted to have the buildings appraised. The appraisal for the Narrowsburg School came in at about $700,000, while the debt for the renovation stood at about $3.6 million. In other words, the school was worth nearly $3 million less than was owed.

The board ultimately decided to try to sell both schools.