In a couple of years, about a quarter of Liverpool’s students will attend a different school than they do now.
At its Dec. 2 meeting, the Liverpool Central School District Board of Education voted to go ahead with redistricting. However, it won’t happen as soon as originally planned.
“The board talked at length about the implementation date of September of 2014,” BOE President Patricia DeBona-Rosier said. “That date is fast approaching. Because we want to make sure this is done thoroughly and done well and we want to have sufficient time to make everyone informed, the board has come to a consensus. That consensus is that we will hold off on implementing this until the fall of 2015.”
The board will not determine how the new district lines are drawn; that will be up to consultant Ellen Kuno and Liverpool’s redistricting committee made up of some 60 LCSD parents, teachers and administrators. Since last spring, the committee has been gathering data and crafting a recommendation for new geographic boundaries, as well as program and student placements, in time for the start of the 2014-15 school year. At least three parents and one teacher represent each elementary and middle school on the committee. The group, led by Kuno, former assistant superintendent for elementary education, created a series of different scenarios to determine how district lines could be redrawn.
At Monday’s meeting, the board indicated it would generally follow the committee’s recommendation for Scenario 12, which redrew the district lines so that most of Liverpool’s students would attend their home school (the school to which they live the closest). The only exception would be if they require special services like English as a second language (ESL) classes or special education services not provided at their home school. Specifics of the scenario were not immediately available, but the Star-Review has requested the information from the board of education.
There hasn’t been a complete redistricting in Liverpool in decades, according to Kuno.
Renovations needed at Chestnuts, LHS
Representatives from the district’s Facility Advisory Committee gave a presentation on improvements needed to several buildings in the district. The committee recommended a number of improvements as part of the Phase 2 Capital Improvement project.
First of all, the roof at Liverpool High School needs to be replaced in its entirety.
“You can see the holes… when you get right up next to them [they’re] actually really large and damaging,” said David Tauro, a member of the committee.
In addition, the Chestnut Hill complex is in need of significant renovations, never having seen a massive overhaul in their 50-year lives. The science rooms at Chestnut Hill Middle School don’t meet state standards for size and safety and must be upgraded. The Chestnut complex also has roof leaks, wiring issues, poor ventilation, mildew, cold zones and multiple other issues that must be addressed for the safety and comfort of the students.
There are also a number of safety issues that need to be addressed. Under the proposal, districtwide, intruder lockset hardware, fire alarm systems and control panel hardware would be replaced, and paging, public address and two-way communications systems would be modernized.
The cost of the proposal as it stands is as follows:
Liverpool High School roof repairs: $6.6 million
Chestnut Hill Elementary substantial building renovation: $12.1 million
Chestnut Hill Middle substantial building renovation: $16.6 million
Districtwide safety and security improvements: $2.5 million
Total cost: $37,919,700
Only a portion of the total is eligible for state aid. The rest would come from local taxes, amounting to about $60 a month on a $100,000 house.
Because so much of the cost would be funded by local taxes, the board was hesitant to jump on board.
“I have some grave concerns,” said board member John Kennedy. “To do Chestnut Hill Elementary alone, it would be about $224.29 per square foot. That’s a pretty good number. This would be pretty tough sledding to get through the community. I would be more in favor of something parsed down. I just don’t think it’s got wings.”
Kennedy was also concerned about the timing, as the committee was asking for a vote at the Dec. 16 meeting.
“Bad decisions get made in a hurry,” he said. “We’re being asked to take a vote on this in two weeks. It’s not going to go well.”
Board member Rick Pento saw shades of the past in the committee’s presentation. He recalled the 2008 referendum in which the $44.5 million Liverpool Elementary/Liverpool Middle complex renovation was voted down.
“It didn’t diminish the need then and it doesn’t diminish the need now,” Pento said. “What we’re attempting to do is put forth something that represents a majority of citizens that will vote ‘yea’ for this. If you only present this option, you’re going to get slapped into going back to the drawing board and going back with a different option.”
But board member David Watson cautioned against waiting too long to take action.
“We’ve kicked it down the road too far,” Watson said. “That dollar amount is going to keep going up. Those 50-year-old buildings have never been touched. We’re not being responsible to our constituents by ignoring them.”
The board will continue to discuss the proposals and vote on them some time in January. A referendum will likely take place in March of 2014.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.