Editor's Note: In response to concerns from our readers, we have updated this story to include quotes from supporters of Parker Elementary School.
CORTLAND, N.Y. - Dozens of concerned parents, teachers, students, and community members packed the Cortland Junior/Senior High School Auditorium Tuesday night to voice their input on the potential closure of a local elementary school.
The Cortland City School District district is strongly considering shuttering one of its five elementary schools as a cost-saving measure.
Citing declining enrollment and fiscal stress, the district hired Castallo and Silky LLC, an education consulting group based in Syracuse, to conduct a study of the district's facilities and determine where cost-saving measures can be implemented. The firm recommended closing either Parker Elementary School, located in the city of Cortland, or Virgil Elementary School, in order for the district to meet its financial needs.
More than 25 people spoke at Tuesday's forum, which was moderated by SUNY Cortland President Erik Bitterbaum. Speakers were asked to limit their comments to two minutes.
Wes Kryger, president of Greek Peak Mountain Resort in Virgil, said Virgil Elementary School has been instrumental in attracting people from out of town to visit the resort.
"Greek Peak has started to grow again, and the Virgil school has been a part of our ability to attract out-of-town residents to visit our facility, invest in real estate, and build new homes," Kryger said. "The school attracts employees and their families to move to our rural community."
Some parents asserted that the closure of Virgil Elementary School would result in declining property values for surrounding homes and businesses.
"Our community members and parents are coming together to make a decision about our school's future," said Tammy Hansen, who lives in Virgil. "I'm a strong supporter of the Virgil school, but I don't want to see any of the schools close."
Others spoke out against closing Parker Elementary School, which is located on Madison Street in the city of Cortland. Esther Davis, a retired faculty member at Parker Elementary School, urged the board of education to consider other options.
"I have four sons who went to Parker Elementary School. I am saddened how the people in this district are being divided," Davis said. "We all want what is best for our schools and our children. Our school is the center of our neighborhood, as it is in Virgil."
The Board of Education will now consider its options, but community members can still provide input by submitting letters to the Cortland City School District Board of Education.