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Editorial: School closings need to bring real savings

Forest Park Elementary School is one of the

Forest Park Elementary School is one of the elementary schools in the Half Hollow Hills school district. (Jan. 25, 2012) Credit: Alessandra Malito

It's not surprising that parents are fighting the closure of Forest Park and Chestnut Hill elementary schools in the Half Hollow Hills school district. That reaction has been seen before on Long Island as closures have become more common: Parents want their kids, especially the youngest ones, in schools as close to home as possible, with familiar friends, administrators and teachers.

Still, schools must close. In Half Hollow Hills, the elementary school population has dropped 25 percent since the 2007-08 school year and is expected to fall another 15 percent by 2017-18. The district has 80 empty classrooms, and officials say closing these two schools will save about $3 million per year.

Last week, parents at meetings at both of the Dix Hills schools, but particularly at Forest Park, confronted officials with their concerns. Some of the complaints -- that students moved to Vanderbilt Elementary School will be subjected to excessive auto emissions because the school is on a state road, or that children on Vanderbilt's playground are too visible from the road -- seem overwrought.

In making these decisions, district administrators are trying to save as much money as possible on buses and buildings, and to inconvenience as few people as possible. They have a huge incentive to close the appropriate schools. To convince residents, the administration has to show actual savings. In districts expected to shrink as much as Half Hollow Hills, the budget, and the taxes, should eventually shrink, too.

If it turns out that taxes and budgets keep rising after schools are closed in various districts, the anger administrators see now will be nothing compared with what they're confronted with later.