Out For “Plan C”
Slowly, the still-new majority of the Onteora Central School
board is letting a dangerous cat out of the bag. At a recent
school board meeting, it was requested that in addition to redistricting
“Plan A”, which calls for the creation of a Middle
School within the current Junior/Senior High School facility
and the maintenance of three elementary schools Onteora-wise,
a “Plan C,” rejected by our consultants, should
also be looked into, whereby the district will increase the
size of its planned Middle School while shrinking its elementary
schools from three to two.
This would be an interesting avenue for discussion were it to
be opened up to all configurations, including a seemingly logical
choice to make the Bennett School the location for such a planned
Middle School, adjacent to but separate from the currently centralized
Junior and Senior High School campuses district students will
be moving on to in time. Which would then entail elementary
schools in Phoenicia and the Woodstock/West Hurley areas…
drawing school age children to the region’s edges, as
it were, for their early education, and then to the district’s
center for the core seven years of 5-12 learning.
But we doubt such talk will ever surface because of the current
political nature of the district, which seems a bit frightened
by any possible decisions, or even talk, that might rattle the
nerves of the Olive voting constituency at its center.
Which is a shame… to bring up an idea but hamstring it
from the beginning.
And more, to follow months of intense public discussion with
what feels like a whim of a detour, called for via the summoning
of “economics” as a reasoning hammer, but in a fashion
that feels dismissive of not only the diverse constituencies
of the wide Onteora community, but also its individual neighborhoods.
Whatever lies ahead for our massive school district, the state’s
second largest, geographically, is going to be difficult. Closing
another school, no matter where, is going to be hard…
especially if one of the choices ends up being one of our schools
located in an actual community of streets and stores, and not
just a roadside configuration of businesses we’ve become
used to over time.
We suggest that everyone slow down on this process and start
searching out new ways of re-opening it to the public via outreach
into local communities outside school walls. Hold meetings in
other meeting halls; attend town and civic meetings to recruit
input. And stop thinking in terms of “spinning”
the information via newspaper columns and direct mailings in
lieu of listening to the wide community, even when that means
literally putting one’s ear to the ground to do so.
What we’re working on here is a change as big as any that’s
effected our communities in the half century that Onteora’s
been in existence. Don’t push ideas based on majorities
elected on other issues… let them gestate more naturally.
We don’t want to see Phoenicia lose its school, and all
the students utilizing it forced to travel hours longer each
day, because of fears of Olive’s wrath.
Our future, as seen in all our kids, and their eventual kids,
depends on this issue. PS