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Long IslandEducation

Sachem district to hold final hearing Wednesday on school closings

From left, Sachem school board vice president Michael

From left, Sachem school board vice president Michael Timo, board president Anthony Falco and district Superintendent James J. Nolan look over charts for redistricting the system on Dec. 16, 2015, during a discussion about closing three schools. The meeting was held at Samoset Middle School. Photo Credit: Daniel Goodrich

The Sachem school district’s board of education is expected to take its final vote Wednesday on closing Tecumseh and Gatelot elementary schools and Sequoya Middle School by the fall because of declining enrollment.

The final public hearing is scheduled at 7:30 p.m. in the Samoset Middle School auditorium, before the board holds its scheduled meeting. In December, at a crowded meeting at the middle school, trustees voted 6-3 in favor of a plan to shutter the schools.

The district is the second-largest on Long Island by enrollment. It currently serves 13,500 students, and more than 2,000 would be affected by the closures.

Superintendent James J. Nolan, in a letter this month to residents posted on the district’s website, wrote that “unfortunately, no decision to close any school building is going to be accepted equally among the entire district. An argument for or against the closing of any particular building could in many cases be made for all.”

Nolan noted that the district has considered a massive amount of data, as well as recommendations from a citizens’ committee, professionals who specialize in the analysis of data relating to school closings, district administrators and employees, and the public at large. The district has been fully transparent in the process, which has taken place over more than two years, he said.

Board president Anthony Falco has said the chosen buildings will be shuttered by September 2016. He has said he is not sure if the plan goes far enough.

In choosing this option, board members decided against closing the Lynwood and Nokomis elementary campuses as well as Seneca Middle School. The plan also calls for redistricting.

The district said it considered several factors in choosing the schools: It aimed to keep the kindergarten-through-fifth-grade structure and minimize transportation costs and children’s reassignment.

It also sought to maintain the elementary to high school feeder structure based on the district’s existing northern and eastern boundaries and to craft a plan that would be sustainable through the next five years.

School officials have noted the estimated savings from closing one elementary school would range from $308,256 to $480,606, depending upon the facility, according to district documents. Estimates of savings from shuttering one middle school would go from $748,720 to $828,720.

Nolan, in his letter, cautioned speakers who come to Wednesday’s hearing to be civil.

“Please be advised that while the board of education welcomes and will consider all comments from the public at the scheduled hearing, it will not engage in debate or permit the interrogation of the board or administration at the hearing,” the superintendent wrote.

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