B y Dan King

So that “everyone can have their voice heard,” a public forum will be held on Feb. 23 to determine the fate of Mary J. Tanner School in Middle Granville.

The Granville Board of Education’s strategic planning committee decided Monday to invite all “stakeholders” to come together for a “robust discussion” on the future of the school’s facilities, particularly the MJT building. The forum will begin at 7 p.m. in the high school cafeteria.

The committee – consisting of board President Audrey Hicks, board members John McDermott and Greg Bourn, and Superintendent Mark Bessen – said their options include closing Mary J. Tanner School, modernizing it, turning it into a BOCES-type building, among others.

“There’s a lot of community interest in what we do with Mary J. Tanner,” Hicks said. “I don’t think any one of us has all the answers, which is why I think we should get input from all the community stakeholders.”

Those stakeholders include businesses and individuals in Granville with a vested interest in the future of the school district, she said, as well as the Vermont schools that send their students to Granville.

Committee members decided that for the public forum they will have pre-made anonymous ballots so that “everyone can have their voice heard” on the matter, even those who may not wish to vocalize their opinion.

“We’re just four people right now,” Bessen said. “But if we get 30 or 40 people, who are interested in taking this school and community in the right direction, to come to this forum and there seems to be a consensus to go one way or another, that gives us the green light to go ahead.”

Invitations will be sent out to the various stakeholders, but the forum will be open to the entire public and school officials encourage everyone to come.

The committee also reported that it received an estimate of about $20,000 for the services of Robert Hendriks of Educational Legacy Planning in assisting in looking at various options for the future of its buildings. Earlier consultant Paul Seversky told the board that it could save $600,000 by closing Mary J. Tanner School.

Bessen said he was optimistic that much of the Hendriks figure would be “BOCES aidable.” Committee members said they would like to wait for the public’s input before deciding whether to go forward with the services of Hendriks. They also said they would look for prices from other people who offer similar services.

McDermott said: “We spent $10,000 and took a little heat, now we’ve got another $10,000-plus that we’ve got to justify to the taxpayers. I think if we don’t do some legwork and research we’re going to take another hit for kicking the can down the road $10,000 or $20,000 at a time.”

Whichever direction the school decides to go with its buildings, Bessen said, the goal is to make Granville an attractive location for younger families to move to, when coming to the area.

28“The future of Main Street and the future of the school go together,” he said. “The goal is what can we do to draw people to realize that Granville is a great bedroom community. It’s 30 minutes from Glens Falls, 30 minutes from Rutland (Vt.) and 30 minutes from Manchester (Vt.).”

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