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Panel urges closure of Nesconset school

An undated photo of the exterior view of

An undated photo of the exterior view of the Nesconset Elementary School in the Smithtown School District on Gibbs Pond Road in Nesconset. Credit: Tony Jerome

After months of study, a committee of Smithtown parents, residents and school officials recommended Thursday night closing Nesconset Elementary School later this year.

The panel, called the Citizens Advisory Committee on Instruction and Housing, voted 17-4 to urge closing Nesconset Elementary instead of Mills Pond Elementary in St. James.

The school board is expected to make a final decision on a school closure next month.

The committee also voted to recommend renting the district's administrative offices if it is financially beneficial and said school officials should study selling undeveloped district-owned land.

The committee overwhelmingly opposed adopting an elementary school grade-restructuring model called the Princeton Plan. Only one committee member supported the plan.

"We know that this is not an easy decision," Jennifer Bradshaw, a committee co-chairwoman and Smithtown's director of curriculum, said after the school-closure vote. "This is our advice to the board of education based on some heavy-duty study."

Colleen Albano, a Nesconset parent and member of the committee, declined to comment after the vote.

The district had said it plans to close a school in September for an expected annual savings of about $1 million in personnel expenses. School officials have said that enrollment throughout the district is projected to decline in the next decade.

Students from the closed school would shift to other district schools. Because of anticipated changes in the zones that determine where children attend school, some students from the school that remains open will be shifted to St. James Elementary School, officials have said.

The advisory committee began meeting in April with a mandate to recommend which of the district's 14 schools should be closed.

By November, the committee decided that either Nesconset Elementary or Mills Pond Elementary should be closed. Anticipated enrollment increases at those schools did not materialize because planned nearby housing developments never got off the ground, district officials said.

Mills Pond parents quickly organized rallies to protest the possible closing of the school. They appeared at board of education meetings in November and last month wearing the school's red and white colors and demonstrated outside the district offices last month.

Mills Pond reopened in 2002 after being closed for 20 years.


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