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Massena looking to merge junior/senior high schools, ‘stack’ elementary schools

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MASSENA - The Massena Central School District could look different in the years ahead, with the potential closing of some buildings.

Board of education members agreed Thursday night to set up committees to look at possible building restructuring. One committee will investigate the budgetary impact of consolidating the junior and senior high buildings, and another will look at the budgetary impact of “stacking” the elementary schools, segregating grade levels at an individual building rather having each building continue to function as a kindergarten through grade six facility.

The committees would include administrators, teachers and community members, who would report the results of their investigation to the district’s board of education in December.

“My opinion is, we certainly are not bare bones, but we are not providing the education we were five years ago. I think that would be lying to ourselves. If we’re going to survive, if state aid doesn’t get better, we have to make some serious changes,” Finance Committee Chairman Loren Fountaine said.

“As we go around, I’m going to throw something out very early. That is combining the junior high and senior high school, which will be more efficient for us as far as utilizing the staff that we have. I think that’s something we need to look at starting now as a study and looking forward to the future regardless of what we do today. There are a lot of savings to be realized there, I think, and those are the kind of ideas we’re going to have to look at if we’re going to be able to survive and provide a quality education for the children of Massena going forward,” he said.

He pointed out that many of the teachers were certified for grades seven through 12, which would make it “easier to realize cuts if they have to happen.”

He suggested they begin discussions with high school Principal Patrick Farrand and J.W. Leary Junior High Principal Burton Peck about the possibility of merging.

“What would we have to do to this building to make that happen? We don’t know the answer. If we start looking at it, we have to have the right people start looking at it right now,” Mr. Fountaine said.

“Everyone says to me, ‘We used to have 3,800 kids, now we have 2,800,’ but I don’t think it’s quite that simple. The education system has changed a lot in that time. There are certain requirements now that we didn’t have to have 15 years ago,” he said.

Interim Superintendent William H. Flynn said he was prepared “to at least begin to lead that discussion,” and if they reached a point where they needed professional services to complete the study, he had already made an inquiry with St. Lawrence-Lewis BOCES Superintendent Thomas Burns.

“He could put together several names for you to consider and what their credentials would be so you could go in that direction if we kind of wave the flag and say, ‘We really need some extra help here in terms of looking at all the various aspects of it,’” he said.

But, the superintendent said, he didn’t believe they needed to go that route.

“You’ve got a group of experts sitting right here at the tables. I would definitely tap their expertise first before we went in that direction and put together as much as they possibly can as a group. We can go from there if we still have some big gaps,” Mr. Flynn said.

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