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Updated: October 17, 2022 @ 1:16 am
OSWEGO — The Oswego City School District is seeking community input on a series of measures that would help with declining enrollment and could improve financial health.
Part of these measures include closing Frederick Leighton Elementary School and sending students to other nearby elementary schools.
The recommendations, made Tuesday by consultants Alan Pole and Deborah Ayers of the Castallo and Silky education consulting firm, are part of an efficiency study commissioned by the Board of Education.
“That portion of the study looks at our program and efficiencies that we might want to realize across the board with respect to the district,” Oswego City School District (OCSD) Superintendent Mathis Calvin III said.
Part of the recommendations also include ensuring enrollment data is updated annually so data-driven decisions can be made, developing a facility planning committee to create and monitor a long-term facility plan for the district, and considering the fiscal implications of any potential capital project.
Future enrollment is on the decline, Ayers said during a presentation to the Board of Education.
“From 2007-2014 those numbers of live births in the district ran 300-plus every year,” she said. “In 2015, it began to dip below 300 for the first time. The trend over the last couple of years has been in the mid 250-300.”
Enrollment, she said, has generally declined in the past six years and is projected to continue to decline through 2028-2029. From the 2016-2017 school year to 2021-2022, total enrollment fell from 3,634 to 3,445, steadily sliding every year, according to information presented by Ayers.
Historically, Ayers noted, the decline in enrollment has gone on for decades. She said enrollment has declined by about 1,800 students since the 1996-1997 school year. This has partially led to below average class sizes compared to the state average of 22 students per class. At Leighton Elementary, for example, there are about 19 students per class.
Poles noted the district’s educational offerings are vast and that enrollment in core courses is healthy, particularly at the high school level.
“The question is, given the finances of public education today, how long can we continue to offer courses that have very low enrollments and impact your program?” he said. “This is real. This is something (you’ve) got to be talking about. Every district is asking this every year.”
In OCSD’s case, the district has more students that populate classes, Poles said.
“The number of courses that have less than 10 students is pretty low,” Poles referenced a 7.8 percent of classes that have less than 10 students enrolled.
Part of the study focused on the closure of an elementary school building or the possible combination of two facilities.
“Our number one question about what school that should be is the one that has the fewest staff and students who would be impacted,” Poles said. “Leighton is the one that is significantly smaller in staff and students across the district. We don’t know how to answer if it is a good idea, or if we think you should do it.”
The students from Leighton Elementary would be distributed equally across the elementary schools found in the city of Oswego, excluding Minetto Elementary, Poles said.
Close to $1.9 million in savings could be realized from closing an elementary school building, according to Poles.
“If you are going to consider it, that would be the building to consider. Not saying it is what you should do,” Ayers said. “If you decide you want to go down that path, it would be important to convene a facilities planning committee whose role would be to develop and monitor long-term goals.”
Calvin said in a letter to parents these recommendations can be difficult to hear.
“The findings and recommendations discussed during tonight’s board of education meeting are difficult to hear, and we recognize that any potential changes will be equally difficult,” Calvin said in a letter to parents. “With that said, please know that the Board of Education and I have not made any final decisions at this time concerning any of the recommendations that are part of the full study. Accordingly, all of our schools and programs will continue to be in operation throughout this upcoming school year.”
The district will be seeking community input on these recommendations in the coming weeks.
More information on this report can be found at https://www.oswego.org/districtpage.cfm?pageid=1819.
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