Granby to consider combining elementary schools to close budget gap

Last modified: Wednesday, February 12, 2014
GRANBY — Seeking ways to close a gap in next year’s budget, Superintendent of Schools Isabelina Rodriguez told the School Committee Monday that she is weighing closing one of the town’s two elementary schools rather than make cuts in art, music or student activities.

Rodriguez told the board an estimated $650,000 to $700,000 is needed to meet next year’s projected $11,093,000 budget. She said she is seeking to avoid having to ask the town for an override to meet these expenses.

The board discussed how the closing the West Street School at 14 West St., which is plagued with structural problems, would allow a reconfiguration of the administration.

In addition, Rodriguez said she believes the town is too small to support two elementary schools. Each school has just over 200 students, she said, adding that in the past each had an enrollment of 300 to 400 children. West Street School is attended by students from pre-kindergarten to grade three and East Meadow School is attended by students in grades four through six.

West Street School’s problems include a failing septic system, as well as windows and heating and ventilation systems that need replacement, according to Select Board member Mark Bail, who discussed those issues in an earlier interview. In September 2013, a special Town Meeting approved a study of the school to determine future options for the building, which include constructing an addition to East Meadow School, 393 East State St., and combining the schools.

Rodriguez presented the budget Monday in the form of an inverted pyramid. At the top were what she described as essential costs and included special education, central office, professional development, transportation and curriculum. These expenses total $9,159,163.

In the middle of the pyramid were maintenance and utilities costs that she described as necessary for health and safety. These expenses totaled $1,066,683.

At the bottom were what Rodriguez called the “Granby Strengths” and included art, music, athletics, remedial services and paraprofessionals that are hired not out of necessity but to help reduce class size, Rodriguez explained.

“That’s what makes Granby strong,” she said. “That’s what makes Granby survive.”

These “strengths,” she said draw teachers and school choice students to Granby schools.

Board members also suggested reducing costs by eliminating one school bus and adjusting the staffing structure of the special education department by making the director part-time.

Rodriguez said she will be meeting with the school principals in the coming weeks to discuss these options before the School Committee meets again March 3. In May, the board will hold a public hearing on the budget and vote on the amount to propose at the annual Town Meeting.