Your Feb. 4 editorial (Connecting Dots) makes the case for reducing cost by consolidating smaller school districts. The continuing parade of capital projects does represent a significant taxpayer expense.
Your suggestion to combine the state aid and build a new school for two merged districts might make economic sense, but it ignores the damage you would do to the communities where those schools are located. You recognize that our schools function as community centers, but you suggest that we would be better off to abandon those facilities and build something new. The abandoned facilities then become a blight at the center of each community.
If mergers are being considered due to declining enrollment, why not use that as an opportunity to open the schools for other functions? To maintain security, we can isolate portions of the buildings and limit access to those areas for non-school functions. We might even rent out portions of the buildings to generate revenue.
The recent closing of the Sanford Street School in Glens Falls is an example of those lost opportunities. That change was sold as a way to save money by reducing staff and maintenance expenses. But the building is still owned by the district and we still pay for maintenance.
I wonder if we could accomplish the same results by renting out portions of under-used schools to BOCES or even to private businesses (day care?) and opening those buildings to other activities that would serve the whole community.
It’s too late for the city district to save its community centers. But it’s not too late for other districts to find creative ways to maintain the financial health of their schools without losing the real value they bring to their communities.
Philip A. Smith, Queensbury, former member Glens Falls City School District Board of Education