Middle Country school district could close Bicycle Path, float bond

Middle Country school district could close Bicycle Path, float bond

Middle Country Board of Education is considering closing Bicycle Path Pre-K/Kindergarten Center due to low enrollment. Photo by Erika Karp

As enrollment continues to decline, Middle Country Central School District is considering closing Bicycle Path Pre-K/Kindergarten Center .

At the district’s Space/Bond Committee meeting on Oct. 18, Board of Education President Karen Lessler assured community members that no decision has been made but that the purpose of the meeting was to have a discussion between stakeholders and the board.

If Bicycle Path Pre-K/Kindergarten Center were to close, Unity Drive Pre-K/Kindergarten Center would become the district’s pre-k center next year and the elementary schools would be reorganized to serve kindergarten through fifth grade.

“It is an opportunity to capture another savings early enough in the school year [and] to work it into the budget,” Superintendent Roberta Gerold said. “We will continue to look for other
options anyway.”

According to Herb Chessler, assistant superintendent for business, the change would result in transportation, building and staff savings totaling about $750,000 a year. Gerold said an administrative position would be eliminated and staff would either be placed elsewhere in the district or excessed.

The $750,000 in savings could change, depending on what the district decides to do with the building. Lessler said it is possible that the district would lease the building. The district will also consider moving its central offices, which are currently located at Dawnwood Middle School, to Bicycle Path. Lessler said she would like to see the old office space turned into science laboratories. The cost of the transition is yet to be determined.

Capital improvement projects like this may be possible if the district decides to put a bond up for a public vote in March.

Lessler said the committee has discussed the option and asked building principals to compile a list of projects they would like to see completed. While the board decided to continue preparing for a bond, should they decide to put one up, some members voiced concern with the time constraints of preparing the bond resolution, which would have to be completed by Christmas.
According to Gerold, size and proximity to the district’s trailers were factors in the decision to look at closing Bicycle Path.

“Unity gives us more opportunities to have a variety of uses,” Gerold said.

Lessler and Gerold said the district wouldn’t sell the building and that it would be maintained since the district’s enrollment may change in the future.

“We certainly have declining enrollment now, but I don’t think that will continue,” Lessler said.
According to Gerold, the district saw a drop in the number of kindergarten classes from 33 classes last year to 30 this year.

Last year, the district discussed closing an elementary school or moving 6th-grade classes back to the elementary schools, but ultimately decided the disruption to students was not worth the savings.

Bicycle Path PTA President Dawn Sharrock said she wants the board to make sure there is adequate space in the elementary schools in order to accommodate the influx of students, while Michael Herrschaft, chairman of physical education and health, asked the board to see if kindergarteners have benefited in anyway from being in separate buildings.

“As a district administration we appreciate the opportunity to collect that data because we too will have to report out,” Gerold said. “So it’s not a matter of money — It’s having a thorough analysis of the topic.”

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