B y Christina Scanlon

The strategic planning committee for Granville’s Board of Education will meet this week to consider the results of a study that recommended the closure of Mary J. Tanner School in Middle Granville.

The study, completed in June by educational consultant Paul Seversky at a cost of $9,000, was called for at a time the district was looking at dwindling enrollment and an unfavorable financial future due to a drop in state funding.

“It was never to tell us what to do,” said District Superintendent Mark Bessen of the study. It was to have a plan in place in case the closure became necessary.

The board could opt to follow the plan or not, but the public will also be included in the decision, either way.

There’s been some “light at the end of the tunnel,” said Bessen, as previously cut funding returns to upstate school districts.

“Right now, the economy and state aid look better,” he said. The board, however, still needs to take a look at the findings, he said.

“The role of the board is strategic planning, not the day-to-day business,” he said, “but to be able to answer, ‘Where will be five years from now?’”

While the study shows it may make financial sense to close the building that houses some 200 students in kindergarten through second grade, there are other things to consider.

“We have to not only answer how it affects us financially, but would it make a difference to the community,” said Bessen.

When the study was first ordered, it was because, without the return of state aid, the district was looking at a potential 30 percent increase in school taxes to keep Mary J. Tanner open, in a worst-case scenario.

“The board would have been negligent not to look into all options,” he said.

Moving forward, the board will be scheduling public forums to present the findings of the study.

“That lets the public know all the details,” said Bessen.

What will also come from public forums is the chance for the public to share ideas.

“It can be an emotional issue,” said Bessen of closing a school. “This gives the community a chance to work through it together.”

It would also be possible for the public to ask for a vote to decide whether to keep the building open or not. If a vote came about, taxpayers would know at that time the amount of potential increase in taxes that could occur if the building remained operational. A nod to keep it open would be taxpayers agreeing to the potential increase.

“Whatever happens, the public is not going to be in the dark,” said Bessen.

The study gave two possible scenarios of closing the school. Both kept all teachers employed, but found savings in building maintenance, grounds keeping, utilities, operation personnel and support staff.

One option would place students in grades K through 5 at Granville Elementary School and students in grades 6 through 12 at what is now the junior/senior high school.

No dates have been set for the public forums. The 58-page study can be found at http://goo.gl/fsjBKD.



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