Community forum tonight on fate of Cortland, Virgil schools

Representatives from Castallo and Silky LLC, a Syracuse-based education consulting group, addressing parents at Parker Elementary School in November 2017 (Sara S./Cortland Voice)

CORTLAND, N.Y. — A public forum will be held tonight on the possible closure of two elementary schools in the Cortland City School District.

Last year, the district’s board of education hired a consultant firm to study the school district’s facilities and determine where cost-saving measures could be implemented. Now, the board is considering the possibility of closing two schools: Parker Elementary School and Virgil Elementary School.

Since May 2017, numerous public meetings have been held to explain these possible changes to the public. The district says that savings from two school closings would alleviate its financial problems and eliminate the need to use reserve funds to balance the budget.

If the two schools were to be closed, the district could end up reorganizing its elementary education structure into a “grade-center configuration.” This would result in having two K-4 schools, one 5-6 school, and three “grade centers” (K-2 school, 3-4 school, and a 5-6 school). Such a model would have advantages, the district says, by allowing more collaboration between teachers as well as increased transportation flexibility. The downside of this model would be that some students in a family could be spread out over more than one school, and students would have to go through more “transitions,” which can be disruptive.

Tonight’s hearing will take place at 6:30 p.m. in the auditorium of Cortland High School during the school board’s regular public meeting. Each speaker will have two minutes to address the school board.