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Ample preparation time eases South Lewis elementary consolidation

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TURIN — South Lewis Central School District officials said their elementary consolidation has gone smoothly, thanks to extensive preparation and planning.

“There haven’t been any surprises that we didn’t anticipate,” district Superintendent Douglas E. Premo said.

Citing budgetary constraints, the Board of Education in January voted to close Constableville Elementary School before the 2012-13 school year, with its pupils split between Glenfield and Port Leyden. Fifth-graders now attend the middle school here, rather than one of the elementary schools.

“It’s gone very well, I think,” Mr. Premo said.

Making the decision around the midpoint of the previous school year gave officials, staff and parents plenty of time to prepare, he said.

The district near the end of the 2011-12 school year held several open houses, parent nights, visits by other principals to the Constableville school and opportunities for Constableville pupils to check out their new schools. Back-to-school barbecues were held in late August to allow children at Port Leyden and Glenfield schools to get acquainted.

Also, staffing assignments were determined in the spring, transportation issues were discussed well in advance of the new school year and some parent suggestions were implemented to help ease the transition, Mr. Premo said.

“We were doing a lot of work last year to make this year a success,” he said.

While closing a school is difficult for the community, the January decision gave people time to adjust emotionally, said Mr. Premo, whose father was a member of Constableville’s final high school graduating class just before district centralization in 1963.

The district is anticipating cost savings of $600,000 to $650,000 from the consolidation.

The switch has allowed for the addition of programs such as fifth- and sixth-grade intramurals and before-school activities for elementary pupils.

“It’s made our district more efficient,” Mr. Premo said. “It’s made a more equalized education across the district.”

Elementary classes throughout the district last year ranged in size from nine to 26 students, while this year’s all are within the 16-to-21-student range, with only four classes at 20 or 21, he said.

“Our class sizes are more balanced than they’ve ever been,” Mr. Premo said.

Deployment of academic intervention service instructors and therapists also is more efficient with two elementary schools instead of three, he said.

The district is using the Constableville school building primarily for storage but will continue to conduct regular building checks and maintain minimal heat, Mr. Premo said.

District board members are awaiting an appraisal of the two-story structure before further discussing what to do with it, he said.

The district, with assistance from the Lewis County economic development and planning office, earlier this year applied for a state grant to conduct a reuse study on the school building, but the proposal was not funded.

However, several real estate agents have looked over the structure, and Lowville firm Good Morning Realty, in particular, has been helpful in discussing reuse options, Mr. Premo said.

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