Dan Hust | Democrat
The historic Youngsville School currently in use by Sullivan County BOCES for its alternative education program will close in June.
Youngsville School closing
By Dan Hust
YOUNGSVILLE Come September, the oldest centralized rural school in New York State will be empty.
Sullivan County BOCES District Superintendent Larry Thomas confirmed this week that BOCES is moving its alternative education program to its Liberty campus.
As a result, the Youngsville Alternative School will close.
But perhaps not forever.
“We are temporarily closing the Youngsville building,” Thomas explained. “We’re going to prep it for its next chapter, whatever that’s going to be.”
When students leave in June, BOCES plans to undertake repairs not a large-scale capital project, said Thomas, but just items needing obvious attention.
The original building is nearly 100 years old, and BOCES, which bought it from the former Jeffersonville-Youngsville school district for a dollar, is interested in maintaining it for the possible day when that space is again needed or if and when it must be sold.
“We don’t have a specific plan in place [for the property’s future],” Thomas said. “Right now we’re trying to keep our options open.”
Serving children who for behavioral and/or academic reasons need to be kept separate from the general student population, the alternative education program is being shrunk from 7th-12th grades to 9th-12th (with a possible class for 8th graders) and relocated to the Rubin Pollack Education Center on Ferndale-Loomis Road in Liberty, about six miles east of Youngsville.
Space was freed up there, Thomas explained, because the Health Occupations program is being transferred to the St. John Street Education Center in Monticello.
The move out of Youngsville was necessary, he added, because of a declining alternative ed enrollment.
“We actually started out last year with no seventh graders at the alternative school,” Thomas pointed out.
BOCES hopes to reduce its costs (and that of its component public school districts), but with that will come layoffs an estimated seven positions will be excessed.
Thomas noted that layoff figures are extremely fluid, however, as some workers with seniority could “bump” others out of jobs. Plus, BOCES hires employees based on the ever-fluctuating needs and demands of the districts it serves.
Thus some or all of those laid off could possibly be employed next school year though there are no guarantees, especially in the difficult fiscal climate districts are facing.
Indeed, local schools’ financial woes could end the 9th-12th grade alt ed program altogether in future years, while some districts, like Monticello, are contemplating providing alt ed classes on their own.
BOCES officials confirmed that this time next year they’ll evaluate the districts’ desire to keep sending their high school alt. ed. students to BOCES, only offering the program if there’s enough interest.
Duggan school in future?
By Dan Hust
WHITE LAKE Sullivan County BOCES’ restructuring of its alternative education offerings could one day lead to the reopening of the former Duggan Elementary School in White Lake.
“No decisions have been made,” cautioned Monticello Central Schools Interim Superintendent Ed Rhine on Tuesday. “At this point, it’s just an idea.”
But it’s an idea he’s already informally discussed with some board members. Rhine sees Duggan as an option for Monticello to host its own alternative education program.
“We don’t want to go into competition with BOCES,” he explained but added that BOCES is eliminating its middle school (7th and 8th grade) alternative education offering and is shifting the 9th-12th graders in that program from Youngsville to Liberty.
While that’s closer to Monticello, Rhine said he and his administrative team have contemplated starting an in-house al ed curriculum.
Already, the district’s 7th and 8th graders who would have gone to BOCES’ alt ed school will be housed next school year in the Kaiser Middle School in Monticello.
But ideally, alt ed students are kept separate from the general student population in order to more effectively address their behavioral and/or academic needs.
For Rhine, Duggan could be Monticello’s alternative education school. In fact, he considers it a far more likely possibility than returning an elementary or pre-K population to its classrooms.
“We’ve got a declining student enrollment here,” he remarked. “... And next year is going to be much worse two to three times worse [financially] than this year was. So nobody is going to be looking at reopening schools.”
Rhine himself won’t be around for that future, however, as he expects to be replaced by a permanent superintendent sometime later this year.
While he’s also considered moving the district’s tech staff to Duggan, Rhine said his talks with the board have remained informal.
“We haven’t had a formal discussion because I’m not the one who’ll be making that decision,” he explained.
Board President Susan Purcell confirmed Wednesday that those discussions had taken place, but she reiterated Rhine’s caution that there are no definite plans.
She indicated district leaders will include Duggan in their considerations of how to handle the alternative education program possibly as a location to host neighboring districts’ alt. ed. programs, too.
“Other districts may decide to partner on that with us as well,” she explained. “... We’re being creative, thinking outside the box.”
What about the township?
Currently, the Town of Bethel leases 3,600 square feet of the newer portion of the school for use as a community center.
A satellite center of the Monticello-based Literacy Volunteers occupies a classroom, as does the Youth Center, and various community programs utilize the gym.
Two classrooms have been combined to form the Justice Court and a meeting space for town, planning and zoning board gatherings.
For $1,250 a month, the town has the right to use that space through June 2015, with an option to renew for five more years.
The rest of the school, including the gym, is available for town and community use, as well, but the district has the right to utilize those spaces as it sees fit, including leasing them to other entities.
“What they do with their side of the building is really out of our control,” acknowledged Bethel Supervisor Dan Sturm. “However, it has to be compatible with what we have.”
So far, only the town regularly uses any part of the former school, though the district has been approached by a religious organization interested in leasing the unoccupied portion for the summer.
Purcell said that since the town utilizes much of the school for its summer camp program, the district isn’t interested in leasing to anyone during the summer months, so that request was rejected.
The town, of course, could make an offer to buy the whole school, but Sturm said there’s no money to do so.
“We’re not in a position to purchase any real estate at this time,” he said.
And Purcell pointed out that Monticello is interested in hanging on to Duggan for the near future, in case enrollment grows.
In the meantime, Supt. Rhine doesn’t foresee an alternative school forcing the town out.
“There’s enough room there now,” he observed. “You’re talking 40-50 kids [at most].”