Plan to Consolidate Truxton Elementary School & Open Regional High School Draws Comments & Concerns
A forum Saturday morning on the future of Hartnett Elementary school in Truxton drew nearly 75 people, many who are opposed to a proposal to convert the building from a K-6 school into a regional tech school.
About a dozen speakers addressed members of the Homer School board, the majority of those who spoke raised concerns and questions in connection with the plan to move all Hartnett students to schools in Homer and lease the Truxton school building to BOCES for a new regional high-school that will focus on integrated learning and real world problem solving.
Many of those who spoke at the meeting like Kay Reakes of Truxton, say they're not opposed to the BOCES plan, they just don't believe it should come at the cost of their community school. Reakes feels this proposal represents yet another attack on the rural way of life, she says as more communities work to become sustainable and green the idea of longer bus rides for young students and less connection in a small school seem to be inconsistent.
Homer Central School District Superintendent Nancy Ruscio says there is plenty of room to absorb the Hartnett Students into the existing Homer classes and the district would add bus runs to keep ride times for students shorter.
Ruscio the district has also looked at future space needs as well and can also accommodate universal pre-k programs in the existing facilities.
Truxton Town Supervisor Gus Wehbe has raised multiple concerns about the plan, he feels that the numbers being used to justify the proposal are misleading. Wehbe says this may be the best proposal for the Homer School district and the Truxton community but, it should stand on its own merits, he feels that Ruscio has deployed scare tactics to introduce this plan. Whebe urged the school board to slow down and carefully study the idea before advancing.
Wehbe asked the school board why not keep the Truxton school open, send more Homer students out to Truxton, and find room in Homer for the New Tech school. Wehbe also questioned what will happen if the building is leased and the program fails, what will become of the school in the future, would Hartnett students be brought back? Will this plan actually lead to lower lower school taxes or avoid future cuts in student programs?
School Board President Sonja Apgar says the board is carefully studying the idea and this represents a right-sizing district wide, class sizes in Homer are shrinking as well.
Not everyone who spoke was against the plan, some life long community members acknowledged the difficulty that this change represents but felt it is a better option other than simply closing the school and shutting the building down.
Ruscio says the district is in the early stages of this process and there will be time to answer questions and address concerns, this week a document to address some of the concerns will be added tot he districts website. The school board currently working on drawing up a lease agreement with BOCES which must be approved by the board, BOCES, and state commissioner of education.
The plan calls for the New Tech school to open by fall 2016 and for Hartnett students to transition sometime before that.