Niskayuna school district considers plan to close middle school

Posted at: 12/10/2012 11:37 PM
Updated at: 12/11/2012 1:12 PM
By: Dan Bazile

NISKAYUNA -- The community doesn't want the school closed. But the superintendent said there aren't many options. They've already done staff reductions and tightened their belts. She said what's left is more reductions or higher taxes.

The crowd spilled outside the doorway of the Van Antwerp Middle School auditorium in Niskayuna. Parents, teachers and students wanted to make sure the Niskayuna school board heard them loud and clear.

One by one,  they went up to the microphone to express their concerns. And not a single one of them wanted Van Antwerp shut down.

"Shutting down a school that's a pillar of this community is not a good choice," said Theresa Healey, who has two children in the district.

The district is considering the idea as the board faces a $4.3 million gap in the 2013-2014 school budget. School officials have three options on the table. Two of them include closing Van Antwerp and shuffle the students around to the other middle school and the five elementary schools in the district. Superintendent Susan Kay Salvaggio blames part of the problem on a lack of funding from the government. She said there aren't many other options. She's already done staff reductions and tightened the budget. She said what's left is more reductions or higher taxes.

"We have to do due diligence on all the issues that come to the table related to the budget," Salvaggio said. "Then we have to make the best decision that we can."

It would be the second time Van Antwerp would close. The district shut down the school back in 1982 for similar reasons and reopened it ten years later. Residents in the district say it makes no sense to do it again, especially since the district would not save nearly enough money to close the $4 million dollar gap, and their children would miss out on so much.

Some residents were also angry that they recently approved funding to renovate Van Antwerp. Now they feel it was a waste of money.

Others said they'll gladly pay more taxes just to keep Van Antwerp open. Salvaggio said it would be a 12 percent tax increase and there are many people in the district who would not be willing to pay it.