Share this article

print logo

Board tackling plan to close a school

The Batavia School Board, with help and advice from 21 "budget ambassadors," is tackling one of its toughest assignments: a plan recommended by the board's Building and Grounds Committee that would close one of the district's elementary schools and shift its 381 students to three other buildings.

Robert Morris Elementary School -- named for the Revolutionary War financier who once owned the land occupied by the city and its schools -- has served the western part of the city since 1929. The proposal to close the school would save $1 million in the first year. The building would be put up for sale.

Many of the more than 50 faculty and staff members would lose their jobs. Prekindergarten, kindergarten and first grades would move to Jackson Elementary; grades two to four would shift to John F. Kennedy; and fifth-graders would go to the middle school.

The board's ambassador program began in the late 1990s on a smaller scale. Numbers were increased this year because of the fiscal challenges to the district, including rising costs for retirement and health care, and uncertain state aid.

Superintendent Margaret L. Puzio said the shifts would not increase class sizes.

Some parents, however, object to fifth-graders moving into a school with three higher grade levels.

The ambassadors have until next Monday to submit ideas. The School Board will meet March 12 to draft a final budget proposal, which it will vote on two weeks later. The spending plan goes to a public vote May 15.

Last year, voters rejected a proposed budget that would have carried a 5 percent tax hike. In a second vote, a $39.4 million budget that carried a 4 percent hike in the tax levy was approved. Without cuts in the 2012-13 budget proposal, a 5.1 percent increase is projected, which exceeds the state-mandated 2 percent tax cap. A supermajority of 60 percent would be required to go beyond the cap.