Watkins school board hears state is considering regional consolidations
WATKINS GLEN—Watkins Glen Superintendent Tom Phillips said the New York State Education Department Commissioner John King Jr. is considering regional school district consolidations as a way to save money.
Phillips brought it up at the Monday, Dec. 5, regular school board meeting and Watkins district consolidation public hearing. It was the second and last public meeting about the proposal to close the middle school and move all students to the 12th Street campus before the Tuesday, Dec. 13, district vote. In addition to reiterating that closing the middle school and constructing an addition onto the main campus would save money, Phillips added it would benefit Watkins if the state does consolidate whole districts.
“If we can contain costs and enhance programs, we can become a regional player,” said Phillips. When asked if the consolidated Watkins Glen campus would make it more likely to house a regional high school, Phillips added “I could see that.”
However, he explained the immediate reason for closing the middle school would be to lower costs and prevent programs from needing to be cut. Phillips said the district has to do building improvements to all the district buildings, but consolidating costs $9 million less. District residents will vote on the consolidation, Tuesday, Dec. 13, from noon to 8 p.m. in the district office lobby.
During the public comment, Phillips fielded questions from staff, residents, and students about the proposed project. About busing, Phillips said the district should be able to offer single busing of all students.
Student Nick Sorensen expressed concerns that there wouldn’t be enough classrooms to provide adequate after school one-on-one time with teachers. Phillips said rooms would not be shared by more than one teacher.
In other business:
• The boys cross country team was recognized for their accomplishments this fall season. The team claimed the divisional and Interscholastic Athletic Conference championships, and placed seventh overall at states.
• Board President Brian O’Donnell announced former buildings and grounds superintendent, George Conklin, passed away last month. He served the district from 1959 to 1985.
• Certified Athletic Trainer Jim Somerville presented to the board about the partnership between the school and Schuyler Hospital to provide athletic trainers to student athletes. He explained athletic trainers are not personal trainers because the certification requires more education and training. He said this fall, the program helped do 716 treatments to student athletes who needed injury prevention and care. Football Coach Lou Condon Jr. added that it was an excellent program and really helped the team.
• District Tax Collector Marie Keefer said they collected 94 percent of the tax levy this year. She added more residents are paying through installment programs.
The next school board meeting is a workshop, scheduled for Monday, Dec. 19, at 5:45 p.m.