March 5, 2014 —
WHITE LAKE, NY — When the board of the Monticello Central School District began to consider the closure of the Dr. Cornelius Duggan Elementary School back in 2009, there was a big reaction from members of the community connected to the school in Bethel to try to keep it open. Some said at the time that it would not be long before the district would need more classroom space and might regret the closure. It turns out they might have been right.
The community lost the battle, and the school was closed in June 2010, but now the district is weighing its options as it considers how to solve a space issue that has been created at the Emma C. Chase Elementary School in Wurtsboro.
At a Bethel town meeting on February 26, Councilmember Vicky Simpson said that the school district had commissioned a report about how to address space problem at Chase. The report suggested seven different options, and four of those options involve re-opening the school.
The report by the Western New York Educational Service Council says that the closure of Duggan did save the district money as promised. In 2010-2011, the report says, the closing appears to have saved the district $2 million. But the report also says that the space issue at Chase must be addressed this year.
So, was the closing really necessary? The report delved rather deeply into the opinions about various people connected with the district, and said among many other things, “There were differing opinions from administrators as to whether the board of education had the necessary information required to make a fully informed decision to close the Duggan School. There was complete agreement that the ‘lines were drawn hastily,’” being overly influenced by the location of the bus garage, and “‘were not well done at all.’”
The various options regarding how to deal with the current space issue range from using Duggan in various ways to leasing a mobile classroom and placing it at the Chase lot. The board, however, may decide against re-opening Duggan, at least for now, because of various factors.
As the report points out, “It can’t be predicted with any certainty how great the level of economic and student enrollment growth will be in the next 3 to 5 years.” That’s in part because the impacts of at least one expected casino and other development projects in the Town of Thompson are as yet unknown.
The report also notes that it is generally thought that extensive renovations to Duggan would be necessary before the school could accept students again, but that, given that the town has been using part of the school for town board meetings, town court and other functions, the necessary renovations may not be as extensive as feared.