PISECO - Piseco Common School District may start sending its students - all of them - to Lake Pleasant Central School.
Four weeks to the day since voters approved a budget for the next school year, the Board of Education announced during its regular monthly meeting June 12 that only 10 students are expected for the 2012/13 school year.
“Since [the public hearing on the budget] several families have decided to send their children to a larger school, for various reasons,” Superinten-dent Peter Hallock explained. “We are going from 24 to possibly 10 students for next year.”
Four of those 10 students are the children of teachers at Piseco Elementary School.
Thirty-four residents attended the June 12 meeting. Many expressed consternation and there was concern that not all the students’ parents were present. In response the BOE called a special meeting for June 14, which drew 28 people.
At the June 14 meeting the BOE unanimously decided to present a proposition to district voters asking them if the school district should become non-instructional. The vote will be July 31 from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the school.
The board cannot offer options; it is allowed only to pose a question to the voters.
If voters approve becoming a non-instructional district all students would be tuitioned to another school district. Piseco Common School District would pay the tuition and students would be bussed to the other school.
PCSD would still own the building. It could be leased out for other uses or space rented out.
If voters do not approve becoming a non-instructional district the school will remain open. “They can vote to keep the school open and the BOE would have to do it,” Trustee William Edwards said.
A non-instructional school district can resume being instructional if voters approve doing so in another referendum. “That’s the beauty of being a non-instructional district,” Hallock said.
TIME IS SHORT
It may seem as if the BOE is rushing things, but for voters to make a decision in time to implement it for the 2012/13 school year it in fact has little time to spare.
Now that the board has made the decision to put the matter before the voters, the legal notice of the referendum must be published four times starting no less than 45 days before it occurs.
Then, if voters approve becoming non-instructional, Lake Pleasant Central School needs time to prepare for the additional students.
A letter will soon be sent to school district residents explaining what is going on and informing them of the date for an informational meeting.
WOULD COST LESS
Hallock said it would cost less to pay tuition and bus students to Lake Pleasant than it would to keep the school open here.
“It would be less expensive to tuition students out,” he said. “Keeping a school for 10 students would be a lot more expensive.
“Right now Lake Pleasant charges $6,800 per student tuition; we are waiting for a figure for younger students.
“We’ll certainly have some projections moving forward. The information will be sent to everyone so they can decide which way they are going to vote.”
If the proposition is voted down, Hallock said, the BOE would have no choice except to open the school for whatever students remain.
If that happens, the district could not pay the tuition for or bus to Lake Pleasant students whose parents are sending them there.
Noting the affect of the sudden drop in enrollment on teachers and staff as well as losing jobs in a small community, Hallock added, “I’m one of them.”
“I’m going to be resigning,” he said. “My job would become part-time so it is not possible for me to stay.” With that he handed the BOE his letter of resignation from the $82,000 a year position.
In part it says, “As the full-time position as superintendent transitions to being part-time, the time has come for my family and I to begin the next chapter of our lives.”
“It’s kind of sad,” Hallock said. “Our community is drying up. I would stay the next 10 years if I could.”
Hallock’s last day will be Aug. 12, “but I’m not going to just walk out; if there are additional things I am willing to talk to the board about part-time. There is a lot to do.”
Hallock’s contract with the school district includes a termination clause requiring notice of 60 days.
The letter of resignation also says Hallock would consider being part-time administrator of PCSD in the future, “depending on my own circumstances.”