By Dan Hust
LIBERTY March 29, 2005 BOCES Superintendent Martin Handler confirmed on Friday that Sullivan County BOCES has approached Sullivan West Supt. Alan Derry with the idea of renting special education classroom space at the Jeffersonville campus.
Handler said BOCES is interested in renting 15-20 classrooms for approximately 170 special ed. students, should Sullivan Wests board and public decide to move the junior high school in Jeff to the high school in Lake Huntington thus freeing up the needed space.
We have expressed an interest, said Handler. We think we could come to an agreement regarding a rental agreement.
Handlers hoping to have an answer from SWs administration and board after its April 7 board meeting in Lake Huntington, as BOCES is already bursting at the seams.
We basically have to know pretty soon, he said.
Part of the answer has already been given, as the two budget options SWs board is considering for May 17s public vote both include moving the junior high to Lake Huntington.
But its by no means a sure thing.
It remains a possibility, not a probability, said Supt. Derry yesterday, adding that the potential revenue would be less than wed gain by leaving the building empty.
Handler admitted that part of the decision to investigate the possibilities in Jeffersonville stemmed from the definitive defeat of the March 17 BOCES building project vote.
Now that a new building is out of the question, BOCES must consider long-term rental options elsewhere.
However, if the Jeff plan is approved, Handler said BOCES would drop its plans to move into the White Sulphur Springs Elementary School, a now-dormant facility owned by the Liberty Central School District.
Further discussions are pending with LCS, said Handler. Due to spring break, Liberty officials could not be reached for comment.
Considering the significant amount of repairs and renovations BOCES would have to undertake at White Sulphur Springs and the fact that BOCES planned to use the 14-room building only as a short-term solution, Handler said it made more sense to consider the much newer and larger Jeff building. The portion BOCES would use would be located in what is known as the 1994 building, referring to its construction date.
The location, too, is manageable as it relates to BOCES Liberty headquarters. Theres about a 10-mile distance between the two.
Jeff is on the outer edge in being a practical solution for us, Handler said, explaining that transportation and education needs prohibit renting out space farther away.
While the move would not include nor solve BOCES vo-tech space issues, Handler felt it would be of interest to the deeply indebted Sullivan West district, which is pondering the closure of the elementary schools in Narrowsburg and Delaware Valley in Callicoon and an 18-23 percent tax hike.
Handler said BOCES rental agreements average about $10,000 per classroom per year, meaning Sullivan West could see upwards of $200,000 in added revenue. (The final amount will be negotiated.)
This could be a plus for both BOCES and the district, he said. Were going to take a serious look at it.
SW board members indicated theyd consider it, but discussions will likely center around the districts own potential need for that space.
It seems that would negate our ability to bring all the K-6th graders under one roof, said Arthur Norden. This would prevent that.
Norden estimated that SW could save around $700,000 if the Narrowsburg and Delaware Valley campuses were closed. However, that would require the elementary students in those buildings to relocate to Jeff, occupying the space BOCES would seek to rent.
Board member Jerry Triolo, who also favors the two-campus closure to bring the potential tax hike down to 18.8 percent rather than 23 percent, was unsure of BOCES proposal.
This obviously changes things, he said.
And time is not cooperating, said Regina Wagner, an SW board member and BOCES head of guidance.
Its tough because of the short time frame, she said, as both BOCES and SW need to quickly nail down their plans so as to prepare for the coming school year.
Complicating matters, she explained, is that even if the board opts to keep all campuses open on April 7, the public may not on May 17, and the space impacts of that scenario need to be thought out.
As to her involvement with both institutions, Wagner said shes wearing the Sullivan West hat in this matter.
My interest is in doing whats best for the district, she remarked.
Other board members, including Board President Rich Sandler, could not be reached for comment.
Derry expects the board to discuss it at the next meeting on April 7 at 7:30 p.m. at the high school. He does not plan to call for an emergency session to review it earlier.