SWR superintendent recommends closing Briarcliff next school year

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02/04/2014 10:54 PM |
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River School District Superintendent Steven Cohen, left, and school board president Bill McGrath at Tuesday night's meeting.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Shoreham-Wading River School District Superintendent Steven Cohen, left, and school board president Bill McGrath at Tuesday night’s meeting.

Shoreham-Wading River School District Superintendent Steven Cohen announced Tuesday he’s moving forward with a 2014-15 budget that does not include funding for Briarcliff Elementary School.

During the school board’s regular meeting, Mr. Cohen gave a presentation and discussed the district’s three possible uses for the current kindergarten through first grade building in Shoreham. Those options include: transforming it into a pre-kindergarten building if the state provides funding for the program, renting the space out or keeping it vacant.

Also in his proposal, Mr. Cohen is recomending turning Miller Avenue Elementary School into a kindergarten through second-grade primary school and Wading River Elementary School into a third-grade through fifth-grade intermediate school.

The announcement comes about a month after the school board’s split vote to proceed with restructuring the district under a Princeton Plan model. Developed in Princeton, N.J., and currently used in other districts, Mr. Cohen has said the Princeton Plan is designed to enhance educational opportunities by grouping elementary school teachers and students by grade in the same buildings while downsizing staffing levels.

One proposal the school board had discussed prior to approving the Princeton Plan was turning Briarcliff into kindergarten-only next school year. Another option the school board considered was that if the spending plan failed in May, then the district would put up another budget in June for a revote with Briarcliff closed.

Through the new reorganization of the elementary program, Mr. Cohen said elementary school class sizes will either remain the same or be reduced in 2014-15, with average class sizes ranging between 20 to 22 students, according to the superintendent’s presentation. One elementary principal position would be eliminated under the plan.

School board president Bill McGrath said after the meeting that he believes closing Briarcliff is needed in order to preserve current programing.

“I’m never in favor of closing instructional space, but we have decling enrollment,” he said. “We have issues with maintaining our program given the everyday escalation in operating the school district, whether its contractual obligations or [state-mandated costs] … Briarcliff is a treasure in the district, but the reality of today is that, in order to keep the program that we all value, we had to make tough choices.”

Mr. Cohen is expected to propose his spending plan to the board on March 4, which will include the financial details of the plan. Two budget workshops have also been scheduled for March 11 and 18. The school board has until April 1 to adopt the budget and is expected to hold a public hearing May 6. The annual budget vote is scheduled for May 20.

jennifer@timesreview.com

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