GJSD looks at possibly closing building

JOHNSTOWN — The Greater Johnstown School District will receive key information in August that may lead to a final recommendation in September to possibly close one of the district’s schools.

But officials caution a school may not even be closed, and if so, a particular choice hasn’t been made yet.

“There’s been no decision,” Board of Education President Christopher Tallon said Thursday. “There’s a group of consultants that we’ve hired.”

Education consultants Castallo & Silky LLC of Syracuse are working closely with the Johnstown school system.

School district officials have discussed various scenarios, such as moving sixth grade from Warren Street Elementary School to Knox Junior High School as part of any closure, but nothing has been finalized. The closing of a school will most likely take at least a year to come to fruition after a decision is made.

Tallon said the board’s Long Range Planning Committee, an advisory committee, continues to meet with the consultants. The committee is also working with the board’s Facilities Committee, which would ultimately make a final recommendation on possibly closing a school.

The Long Range Planning Committee — comprised of district staff and community members — has already reviewed district facilities usage, student enrollment projections, and instructional programs this year .

The reason the district is looking at closing a school — similar to over a decade ago when it closed Jansen Avenue Elementary School — is financial. Enrollment has declined over the years in the district, which recently underwent a tumultuous budget process. District residents in a June 18 revote approved a $37.8 million district budget for 2019-20 that contained a 14.6 percent tax levy increase.

Tallon said the Long Range Planning Committee will hear from the consultants at its next meeting, and more should be known then. The public meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. Aug. 5 in the Johnstown High School library.

Eventually, he said that advisory panel will make some sort of recommendation on closing a school building. He said a final decision on building closure could be made in September.

The district must decide various factors on which building to shut down. At the same time, Glebe Street Elementary School recently lost its current principal. Abbey North will become the principal of Loudonville Elementary School, which is part of the North Colonie Central School District.

Many schools have also undergone capital project renovations in recent years as part of an overall, roughly $39 million capital plan. In the case of Glebe school — constructed in 1966 — capital work included replacing the aging boiler, constructing a small addition to create more cafeteria space, and renovating the art and music rooms.

The Long Range Planning Committee has already determined classroom usage in the city’s three elementary schools are somewhat similar.

Glebe Street Elementary School has 17 full-size rooms with 11 used for grade level classrooms and six used for special education, AIS, art, and other related purposes. There are 19 full-size classrooms in Pleasant Avenue Elementary School, with 14 being used for grade level classes and five other rooms for special education, art, music, and other related purposes. Warren Street Elementary School has 28 full size classrooms with 13 being used for grade level classes and 15 other classrooms being used for music, art, speech, and other related purposes.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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