Yearlong study recommends Massena Central make no changes to building, grade configuration
Thursday, June 21, 2018 - 10:59 pm

By ANDY GARDNER

MASSENA -- A yearlong study into if the Massena Central School District should reconfigure their building arrangement recommends they make no changes, but eliminate positions through attrition in light of dwindling enrollment.

The study was written by Alan Pole and Jessica Cohen from Castallo and Silky Education Consultants. An advisory committee of community members, district employees and students gave input throughout the process.

"Our recommendation is, after looking at everything ... your best bet as a school district is to maintain the status quo," Cohen told the MCS Board of Education at Thursday night's meeting. "It's our recommendation you use attrition for reducing staff. We believe given the age of staff in most districts and the amount of resignations and retirements that occur that should work for you.

"It's our recommendation you use attrition for reducing staff. We believe given the age of staff in most districts and the amount of resignations and retirements that occur that should work for you."

Pole said their recommendation is based on the district's balance of class sizes and that the majority of classrooms are already being used on all five buildings.

"We see schools where there are hallways of empty classrooms ... classrooms devoted to storing books," he said. "You don't have that here in Massena. Your buildings are really filled pretty nicely."

The suggestions they posed as alternatives would not be wise at this time, the consultants said, because they don't have enough empty classrooms to make them work.

The consultants' alternative suggestion to status quo would put pre-kindergarten through first grade in one building, two through four in another and fifth and sixth in a third, leaving junior high and high school as is.

"This ... could work in Massena," Pole said.

The idea could be used down the road, when according to Pole's projections based on current trends, their enrollment could shrink by about 700 students from 2012-2013 to 2024-2025.

"If you stack, that is to go to three schools organized by grade level, you would reduce the number of sections immediately by six," Cohen said.

If they go with that option, based Pole's calculation of current salaries and benefits for the average teacher, they would save about $500,000 per year.

"I think what I saw out of this is ... you indicated our district is in tremendously good financial shape and tremendously well managed. We don't have to do anything right now because of that," Trustee Kevin Peretta said. "We have the luxury of waiting on it right now, but that study provides a framework ... down the road ... wait for the right moment to implement it.

"I think we should always keep an eye on this."

"I think what will end up happening if our enrollment continues to decline, probably be a while before we close a school, there will be more moving of students around ... on our transfer buses to balance out so we have not too low class sizes," Superintendent Pat Brady said.

In addition to the organization recommendations, a building condition survey as part of the study identified $94 million worth of work that could be done in all the buildings.

"Ninety-four million is not what we need. Some of that is we had wish lists and so forth. There is quite a bit of HVAC, security, roofs, fieldwork and drainage, all sorts of things that need to be done," Brady said.

"Ninety-three or 94 percent of the cost of improving your schools is reimbursed by the state," Pole said.