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Phillips: Watkins doesn't need middle school building

    WATKINS GLEN—The Watkins Glen Central School District presented plans to consolidate buildings and costs by closing the middle school, in a public meeting, Wednesday, Nov. 16.
    Around 25 residents attended and heard a presentation about the proposed closing.  There will be a second public meeting Monday, Dec. 5, at 7:30 p.m. in the high school library.  District residents will vote on the consolidation, Tuesday, Dec. 13, from noon to 8 p.m. in the district office lobby.
    Superintendent Tom Phillips explained the district needs to do renovations to all the district buildings that would cost $33,684,787.  At the same time Watkins looked at district-wide renovations, officials calculated the cost savings of closing the middle school building and relocating all students to a renovated 12th Street campus.  Phillips said that project would cost the district $24,662,190.
    He added that enrollment has remained steady over the years, but is down 450 students compared to 1980.  Phillips said the middle school is an aging building that cannot be cost-effectively renovated.

    "The underlying message is why continue to throw money into bricks and mortar you don't need?" said Phillips.
    Phillips explained the state has said, as of the Wednesday meeting, that 98 percent of the project can be covered by aid.  Residents expressed concerns about the state following through with providing promised aid given current state fiscal issues.  Phillips said he has to plan with what he knows and that the state has provided all the aid from the previous fieldhouse expansion.
    Phillips said there is also the possibility of selling the middle school building.  He said the previous renovations to the building have kept it up-to-date and make it "attractive" to buyers.  He added four different individuals have already expressed interest in the building.
    Janet Stamp, resident and former Watkins Glen middle school teacher, said it seemed like closing the middle school would be a waste of the money put into previous renovations.
    "It's a very positive step for the school district and an even better step for the students," said Judith Phillips, who participated in the public committee that reviewed the project.
    "For me, my concern is programs," said Julia Syme.  "(Unfunded) mandates have caused districts to think outside of the box and I think (the Watkins superintendent) is doing that."
    She added she is generally in favor of the project, but would prefer smaller schools as opposed to one big district building.


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