Before moving to Cleveland, Sarah Taylor home-schooled her five children. Taylor was so impressed with Cleveland Elementary that she enrolled her family in the school on the north side of Oneida Lake. Now, she's debating home schooling her youngest children again after the Central Square School Board voted to close down Cleveland Elementary.
The plan is to move the students to Cole Elementary seven miles down the road - a decision Taylor and other parents want the district to reconsider.
"I'm not comfortable with that. I'm afraid kids are going to get lost in the cracks. It's going to be overcrowding at one school," said Taylor.
Superintendent Joseph Menard says the decision to close Cleveland Elementary was difficult. The school was honored by the U.S. Department of Education in 2010 with a Blue Medal award for academic progress, but the financial math is undeniable. Cleveland is only at 55% capacity. Cole Elementary is at 60% capacity and Menard says that after years of cuts in state funding, the district needs to be on a more sustainable path.
"Our enrollment and revenue are decreasing, while our costs are increasing," said Menard.
By merging students from Cole and Cleveland Elementaries, the Cole building will be at aproximately 107% capacity.
Parents say closing Cleveland Elementary could save the district $763,000 in the first year. Taylor and others say they would rather see the district tap into reserve funds or close the current middle school instead and turn an existing elementary school back into a middle school. They say shutting down Cleveland Elementary will isolate a community and will not solve problems with decreasing enrollment district wide.
"What is the next step that is actually going to address the issues in the district because overall, this step doesn't do that," said Taylor
The Central Square School District does not have any plans for the Cleveland Elementary building after it closes on July 1st. The School Board has authorized the superintendent to look for potential buyers.