Board: Phoenicia school closing looks less likely

By Jay Braman Jr.
As battle lines within the Onteora School District are beginning to be drawn, the Onteora School Board is making it clear that they are not convinced that closing a school will be the financial savior of a plan for the sprawling district.

At a public forum last week, the board heard from many parents and residents about the three options on the table for how to cut spending in the coming school year.

With declining enrollment and dwindling revenue, the district is faced with the reality that taxpayers would be forced to pay more in taxes to teach fewer students. They are also aware that if they remain within the state mandated two percent tax increase cap, they will be broke within a few years.

So, months ago, the quest for a good cost-savings plan that also provided solid educational benefits to students began. Three have surfaced; two of them call for the closing of the Phoenicia elementary school.

With over 100 attending at the Bennett Elementary School in Boiceville on January 10, the school board and the district’s superintendent cautiously veered away from the closure.

Making it clear that no decisions are made yet, Trustee Tom Hickey noted that the goal is to rescue the district from running out of money. And according to his review of the financial projections for each plan, closing a school will not do it.

“Closing a school does not solve the problem,” he said.” It does not create financial solvency.”
Under the plan that keeps Phoenicia open, some Bennett students would go to the Phoenicia school in the fall.