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Sachem school district puts off school closing decisions

This file photo shows Sachem High School East

This file photo shows Sachem High School East in Farmingville. (Sept. 15, 2013) Credit: Ursula Moore

The Sachem School District, which has been pondering school closures for months, will keep all of its campuses open in the 2014-15 school year, its board has decided.

While that's a relief to some families afraid their neighborhood school might be shuttered, at least one resident hoped the district would move faster on the issue.

Rich Sayres, 51, of Holtsville, told the board during a regular meeting Wednesday night that it should be more proactive about the closings.

"Why wait until the last minute to see if we are getting more state aid?" he asked, saying the money saved from closing schools should instead be freed up to restore programs and teachers. Sayres, who graduated from Sachem, has one child in the district. Two others have already graduated.

But Matthew Gottesman, 40, and a father of one child in the district, praised the board for moving slowly. "This is a decision that affects the emotional and educational well being of hundreds, or possibly thousands of students," he said. The closing of a campus won't save much money, but could take a tremendous toll on the related community, he said.

He said, too, that shuttered buildings can become liabilities. They can be targeted for vandalism and prove difficult to lease, Gottesman said.

The school board will spend the next several months considering four possible scenarios for closings, officials said. The earliest could come in the 2015-16 school year.

The district would save about $430,000 a year for closing an elementary school and about $650,000 for shuttering a middle school.

School board president Rob Scavo said earlier this week that the district needs to take time before making such an important decision. "We felt more study would be necessary to do it right," he said.

Sachem, the second-largest school district on Long Island, serves 14,000 students in two high schools, four middle schools and 12 elementary schools. Its proposed budget for the 2014-15 school year is $291.3 million. Its current budget is $286.9 million.

The district's four choices are clear-cut, Scavo said. They are:

Close two elementary schools and redistrict;

Close two middle schools and move sixth-graders to elementary schools;

Close two elementary schools and a middle school;

Close Seneca Middle School.

If Seneca Middle School should close, students at Hiawatha Elementary would go to Samoset Middle School, those at Grundy and Nakomis elementary schools would go to Sequoya Middle School, and pupils at Waverly Elementary would go to Sagamore Middle School.

District and board officials will consider each scenario individually over the course of several board meetings -- but not until this spring's budget season is over, Scavo said.

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