56° Good Afternoon
56° Good Afternoon
Long IslandEducation

Sachem Central School District holds meeting Wednesday night to discuss school closures

Sachem School Board President Tony Falco, left, and

Sachem School Board President Tony Falco, left, and Superintendent James Nolan speak to each other during a special meeting of the school board Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, at the Samoset Middle School. Credit: Daniel Goodrich

The Sachem Central School District, which has seen a decrease in enrollment in recent years, held a special meeting Wednesday night at Samoset Middle School in Lake Ronkonkoma to discuss possible school closures.

The district has contemplated the move since last year. A special committee presented the school board with several options last fall, but none was chosen.

Late Wednesday night, board members narrowed their options to the closing of two elementary schools and one middle school. They did not name any of the campuses.

Board member Bill Coggin said the district had no good choices but had to make a decision. "There is no silver bullet," he said. "There are no good options."

He said parents have to accept some change. "I promise you, your kids are going to be all right," he said.

Trustees have repeatedly told the hundreds of parents, teachers and students gathered at its meetings in recent months that it is time to make tough choices.

The district, with the second-largest enrollment on Long Island, has 12 elementary schools, four middle schools and two high schools. Its overall student population is 13,577, down from 15,006 in the 2008-09 school year.

While Chippewa, Grundy, Merrimac and Tecumseh elementary schools have the lowest enrollments -- each hit its peak about a decade ago -- the current student population won't be the determining factor, school officials have said. Some large-scale housing developments within the district's borders might play a role.

Board president Anthony Falco has said if any campuses are to be shuttered before the 2016-17 school year, administrators would need to commit to closures by January. Closing of two or more campuses would result in redistricting, he has said.

Last year, four other scenarios were broached: closing two elementary schools; closing two middle schools, with the moving of sixth-graders to the elementary level; closing two elementary schools and one middle school; or closing a single middle school.

Information on all the proposals is posted on the district's website, along with a November 2014 memorandum from Associate Superintendent Bruce Singer to board members and the superintendent. The memorandum has details by school on the impact of closure -- estimates of cost savings, reductions in staff positions and the funds needed to keep buildings in good repair, as well as other specifics.

The estimated savings from closing one elementary school would range from $308,256 to $480,606, depending upon the facility, according to the memo. Estimates of savings from the shuttering of one middle school would go from $748,720 to $828,720.

In the event of a school's closure, the memorandum put the number of trimmed staff positions at 11 at each elementary school and 15 at each middle school.

Sachem, which has a $296 million budget, has struggled financially for years. State aid dropped by $15 million in 2009-10 and has not been fully restored despite rising health care, pension and special-education costs, school officials have said.

Since the state property-tax cap was imposed for the 2012-13 school year, Sachem's board has twice proposed budgets that pierced its limit. Budgets that bust a system's tax cap must be approved by a 60 percent vote.

District residents approved the first budget that pierced the limit, in May 2012. The second, for a 7.49 percent increase, was rejected in May 2013 and the district held a revote, at the capped limit, which passed.

Last spring and in May 2014, proposed budgets stayed within the district's tax-levy limit and were approved, but the system has drawn heavily upon its reserves.


We're revamping our Comments section. Learn more and share your input.

Latest Long Island News