Clarkstown parents could hear later this month what a reorganized school district could look like if Congers Elementary School were to close. They could also find out where Congers students will go during the interim while the school is repaired, if a public referendum to borrow $6.5 million to fix the school passes Feb. 4. The administration is expected to review both recommendations at a school board meeting Jan. 23 and has hired a demographer to assess the district’s facilities needs.
Below is my full story. The version published in The Journal News and on Lohud.com Jan. 5 was trimmed due to space limitations.
Clarkstown school district voters will decide next month whether to back a $6.5 million repair project for Congers Elementary School, which has been closed due to structural damage since the school year began.
A vote on the bond issue will be held from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Feb. 4.
If residents approve, Clarkstown would borrow up to $6.5 million to reconstruct walls, replace windows and parts of the roof, remove asbestos and make the 86-year-old school building comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act.
The list of “critical” repairs recommended by engineers was approved following a series of emergency meetings last this fall after a crumbling gym wall was discovered in August.
The building was immediately closed and its 300 students rerouted to St. Augustine’s in New City, where they’re spending the rest of the year as per a lease agreement.
The Board of Education voted 5-2 in December to hold a public referendum on the bond project. But key details of the project’s impact on taxpayers remain unknown.
Michael Aglialoro, board president, said Friday that the district has yet to present figures on the estimated annual tax increase. Officials are also waiting to hear back from the state about possible aid for the project.
Aglialoro said more information on the tax impact will be available at upcoming board meetings on Thursday and Jan. 23. Still, the public could vote Feb. 4 without knowing if or how much state aid will be available, he said.
Community debate over what to do with the school intensified as 2013 came to a close.
Parents and educators argued over whether the Congers repairs should be included in a more expensive district-wide facilities improvement plan, but the board could not reach a consensus on that option.
Talk of redistricting Clarkstown schools because of declining enrollment has stirred fears that Congers would close permanently to save money. If the February vote does not pass, the school is likely to close anyway, officials have indicated.
Aglialoro said he expects the administration to present recommendations for how to distribute Congers students throughout the district either permanently — in the case that the bond is defeated — or until they return to a repaired school.
The district has hired a demographer to assist in making decisions about future facilities needs.
For information on where to vote and how to obtain an absentee ballot, go to www.ccsd.edu or call the district clerk at 845-639-6455.