HOMER, N.Y. – Despite outcry from area residents, the Homer Central School District's Board of Education voted Tuesday to close down Hartnett Elementary School in Truxton at the end of the school year.
The board voted 7-2 in favor of permanently closing the school on July 1, with board members Kimberly Sharpe and Katie Dwyer voting against the resolution.
In a separate vote, board members also agreed to auction off the building.
Prior to Tuesday's vote, the board held a public hearing on the school's closure. Philip Martin, a consultant with Syracuse-based Castallo & Silky, gave a presentation on the ramifications of closing the school (Martin was hired by the district to study the future of the school).
In his presentation Tuesday, Martin recommended the school be closed, pointing to declining student enrollment and the ability of other schools in the Homer school district to accommodate the 102 students currently enrolled at Hartnett.
Closing the building would be an effective cost-saving measure and would result in greater equity in class size across the district, he added.
Residents were allowed to ask questions following Martin's presentation, but some questioned Martin's data and the fairness of the hearing itself.
Lloyd Sutton, a Truxton resident who has grandchildren in the Hartnett school, said the findings in the study were not supported by the facts. He also accused the board of restricting public comment.
"This was advertised and put in the agenda as a public hearing. What you have done here is not a public hearing," Sutton said.
During his presentation, Martin also discussed the negative impact of the school's closure, including a longer bus ride for Truxton students, a potential decline in property values in the town and the loss of a community landmark.
Still, he concluded that closing the school would be the best option for the district.
"I don't see any alternative," Martin said.
Martin was asked by a Truxton resident why he didn't speak to local residents and business owners in the town to get their opinions.
“There are a total of 102 students," Martin said. "When I look at declining enrollment and consider that this board of education has to make a decision on the basis of the welfare of the entire district, those elements are so significant that they outweigh factors about property values and the sense of Truxton as a community.”