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Branch Brook Elementary School to close by 2017-18, board votes

Branch Brook Elementary School in the Smithtown district

Branch Brook Elementary School in the Smithtown district is slated to close by the 2017-18 school year because of declining enrollment and rising costs systemwide. The school, shown here on Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016, is located at 15 Ridgely Rd. in Smithtown. Credit: Steve Pfost

The Smithtown Board of Education, faced with declining enrollment and rising costs, voted 5-1 this week to close Branch Brook Elementary School by the 2017-18 school year.

“The decision to close Branch Brook Elementary School was a difficult one, and one that took months of analytical research and community input into consideration,” Superintendent James Grossane said Friday in a statement. “We understand that this decision emotionally impacts our community, but it is important to know that the district must act with the best interest of our students and staff in mind, while maintaining its fiscal responsibility to taxpayers.”

District officials have not decided how Branch Brook students will be assigned to other schools. The board voted on the closure Tuesday.

Branch Brook, which serves 374 children in kindergarten through fifth grade, is the smallest of eight elementary schools in the 9,400-student district. Its enrollment is capped at 460, according to the district.

Opponents had said the closure would scatter Branch Brook’s students among different schools and depress property values. It will be the second shuttering of a district school in recent years: Nesconset Elementary closed in 2012.

“The families of Branch Brook are heartbroken,” Tammy DeGeorge, president of the Branch Brook PTA, said Friday. She has two children in the school. “We truly believe now was not the time.”

School officials, in documents presented to the community, said K-12 enrollment has dropped every year since 2009 and is expected to drop to 7,300 by 2023. Elementary enrollment has declined from a high of 5,200 students in 2004 to 4,300 in 2012, and is projected to be about 3,400 students by 2017.

Closure of one elementary school would save about $725,000 each year, the district has said.

Supporters of the school had launched a petition drive and gathered more than 500 signatures, according to an online website.

Closing an elementary school had been studied for at least a year, the district said in documents posted on its website. A committee of 25 members — representing every school, the Special Education PTA and the community at large — determined an elementary school’s closure was warranted by the 2016-­17 school year, the district said.

Branch Brook’s size and location were among the considerations in closing it, the documents said.

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