Plan to move two grades presented

Capital Area School Development Association representative Terry Brewer, center, speaks on a reorganization report at the Greater Johnstown School District Board of Education meeting Wednesday night at Johnstown High School. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — The Capital Area School Development Association on Wednesday presented a non-binding, informational reorganization report on the Greater Johnstown School District to the Board of Education that includes the option of moving seventh and eighth graders to Johnstown High School.

The high school would house grades 7 through 12, the report says.

The district asked Rensselaer-based CASDA to issue a report that took a look at the district’s previous Castallo & Silky LLC report that suggested closing Glebe Street Elementary School.

Speaking before the board Wednesday night st JHS were CASDA representatives Terry Brewer and Jerry Steele, former education administrators.

“We were asked to work with the superintendent,” Brewer said.

Interim Superintendent Karen Geelan and the board reviewed CASDA’s findings, took no action, but said they will be considered as part of the overall district scope.

Brewer said Hamilton-Fulton-Montgomery BOCES is “adjusting programs” and eight to 10 classrooms it uses at the high school will be freed up at the end of the school year.

The CASDA officials said the more than $355,000 in revenue the Castallo & Silky report said the district will get by closing Glebe is only a “one-time” revenue. It was noted $98,000 in revenue only eliminates 1 percent off the tax rate. They suggested various scenarios by which the district will continue to annualize revenue by looking at changes for its various buildings, with an emphasis on renting.

Among those possible changes would be to move seventh and eighth grades to JHS, possibly relocate district “central” administrative offices out of JHS, and keeping Glebe open as rental space. Other scenarios included possibly having more lower grades move to the 37-classroom Knox building.

The board voted in December to close Glebe Street Elementary School in June. It would be the second school closed within a 10-year span for fiscal and enrollment reasons. The board voted 7-0 to shut down Glebe, effective June 30. The Glebe building across from Knox Field and Knox Junior High School, built in 1966, currently educates second and third grades within the district.

The former Jansen Avenue Elementary School was closed in 2009, although the building is still getting educational use today.

Steele touched on various demographics for the district, which has seen a drop in enrollment over the years. He said the district currently educates about 1,600 students and the median income of their families is about $31,000 per year. About 4,600 district residents live below the poverty level.

The CASDA officials recommended the district have a conversation soon with BOCES about what space is needed and at what cost. The current BOCES revenue to the district is about $201,000.

Among the various scenarios offered by CASDA was to use Glebe as an alternative to Jansen for BOCES, putting more grade school students in Knox, which is only 77 percent utilized.

Board member Ronald Beck’s reaction to the possibility of moving seventh and eighth grades to JHS was to state: “That’s absurd.”

Other board members expressed some desire not to tinker too much with Knox, a historic staple in the community in the heart of Johnstown.

“We’re looking at this from not selling, but rental to create that revenue stream,” Steele said of the report.

Brewer said much of what is in the CASDA report is “doable,” but board members need to look at “what fits your needs best.”

Geelan thanked the CASDA representatives for their work.

“What you can’t just do is nothing,” she said. “I think [CASDA] did a very comprehensive study in a little bit of time.”

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at [email protected]

By Patricia Older

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