To This Meeting January 26!
On Saturday, January 26, the Onteora School Board is holding
a Community Forum at the high school designed to hear from the
public regarding current plans to move the district towards
a new 5-8 Middle School format. Things are set to start at 11
AM and run for about three hours. We expect all our readers
to be there because we feel that this proposal represents one
of the bigger changes proposed for our area in years, what with
its restructuring of our elementary school system so key to
current community identities, … as well as a proposal
whose funding would involve us all paying bonds to fund approximately
$40 to $75 million in costs for decades to come.
The new meeting is part of a fast-paced schedule that has the
district aiming to firm up its plans for district reconfiguration
by June of this year for a bond vote in the next school year.
It also seems to have taken into account the recent experience
of the Woodstock Library to fail in its push for major changes
when community members charged that its plans were put before
the public without proper input.
How did we get to where we now are? The school board voted 4-3
last June to create a Grade 5-through-8 middle school, even
though it has yet to formally address the closing of an existing
elementary school to make this possible. Current plans, it appears,
are suggesting that this would be Bennett School, in Olive,
so its recently-renovated building could be reconfigured for
the new campus already okayed.
The great difference in prices for bonding is because of alternatives
regarding renovations to existing buildings… which had
been the original consideration that led us to where we are
The planning process the community forum is part of involves
three phases that include the current deciding on a plan for
the approved Middle School, and then facility upgrade/bonding
plans for work to be done on behalf of grades 5 through 12,
and then grades K-4. Key to the Saturday discussion will be
a gauging of the community to see whether it wants the new Middle
School to occupy the Bennett facility or be made part of the
existing High School campus.
Professional facilitators will be on hand to help explain what’s
been decided to date, what choices are still being looked at,
and how the process will continue… as well as to help
everybody state their thoughts and concerns in a cogent, helpful
What we think of the plans on the table can be elucidated later.
The key now, in our minds, is that the general population of
Onteora “stakeholders” start getting involved with
what’s already under way… so that the board has
no big surprises to face farther on, and so we can ensure that
what’s happening reflects what people want… a fact
some have questioned, given the differences between the board’s
current path and previously surveyed public opinion, as well
as previous consultants’ suggestions regarding the district’s
Why none of this has provoked more interest to date is anyone’s
guess… And more the reason for everyone to get out to
hear what’s up, and be heard about how they feel about
our community’s schools. See you there! PS