More than 10 speakers made their way to the podium Wednesday night at Nesaquake Middle School to address numerous concerns involved with a possible school closing, the Citizens Advisory Committee report and redistricting.
One topic focused on more than others were the possible changing of feeder patterns from elementary to middle schools.
St. James resident Jill McDowell spoke against changing the current feeder parents, presenting a petition with 473 signatures of residents opposed to sending their St. James Elementary students to Great Hollow Middle School.
"It seems as if you are bending over backwards in my opinion to keep Nesconset Elementary students together ... we want to keep the existing feeder patterns in place," she said. "If my now fourth-grade daughter goes to Great Hollow she will only know about 38 kids in a school population of 1,000. How is that fair?"
One parent questioned the districts motives for changing these patterns, suggesting the district is trying to get more general education students into Great Hollow Middle School to get off of the New York State Education improvement list.
“Is the true reason why this push for all of Mills Pond [Elementary] to go to Great Hollow to actually bump up the general [education] population of that school and raise the scores to get off the improvement list off the New York State reader?” said Heather McCormick of St. James. “I’m wondering if there was a hope that if we get more general ed scores that we’d get the school off the list.”
Superintendent Edward Ehmann said after the meeting that the state assess children in groups and two groups of children in Great Hollow Middle School – special education and English as a second language – just missed the standards.
The superintendent repudiated McCormick's claims.
"The people's opinions on what the motive is, is their own. The bottom line is its declining enrollment, reduced revenue, consolidating housing to conserve program," Ehmann said after the meeting. "The idea that we would put other children in there just to change the demographic is totally inaccurate."
Theresa Knox, who served as President for the Nesconset PTA during past redistricting, said although she has ties to the school that could be closed that she was elected to make tough decisions for the betterment of the entire district.
"This is a personally had decision but I've had to make other decisions that are difficult when we do a budget and cut things out," she said.
Knox said after the meeting that she would like to hear more information on how the district will derive revenue from whatever building gets closed.
Board President Gladys Waldron said she has enough information to make a decision now, but still has questions, specifically involving special education and transportation. While stating she has enough information to make a decision Waldron declined to provide her decision, stating she will wait until the board is also ready to do so.
The board is set to come to a decision Feb. 28.