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Holland schools ponder next move after defeat of capital project

Exit polls from the Holland Central School District’s $13 million capital project vote last week are still being tallied, but School Board President Taina Armstrong-Hoffman said the reasons for the lopsided defeat appear to be varied.

Some residents thought the vote was rushed, she said, while others felt the cost of the $4 million athletic complex that was part of the plan was too high.

But in the wake of the 1,081-209 defeat, Superintendent Cathy Fabiatos said there was an organized effort aimed at preventing the proposal from passing, a sentiment the board president echoed.

“A lot of energy went into campaigning against it,” Armstrong-Hoffman said.

The board president referred to lawn signs that were distributed and a bulk mailing leaflet in which Larry Krzeminski, a former board member, told voters that the project was “unnecessary” and that a “no” vote would force the School Board to reconsider “the middle school option.”

Since the former middle school was closed in June 2012, the issue has been a thorn in the district’s side. There is some sentiment in the community, supported by current board members Kelleen Kensey and Joseph Levesque, that the elementary school should have been closed instead of the middle school when the district downsized from three buildings to two.

Krzeminski was among the board members at the time supporting that option, along with Kensey, Levesque and former board President Stephen Welk, who also urged residents to reject the proposed capital project in a letter to the editor published prior to last week’s vote.

Over the last year, Fabiatos has repeatedly explained that the New York State Education Department doesn’t allow aid to a building that no longer is for teaching students.

Holland receives 82 percent aid on approved projects. Even if students are put back into the Partridge Road facility, the district would have to petition the state and demonstrate need for the reopening, she said.

With the student population currently around 900 and expected to decline, that scenario is unlikely, officials have said.

In addition, a recent survey of district facilities showed that of the district’s buildings, the former middle school requires the most extensive work.

When Armstrong-Hoffman was asked whether the board would consider reopening the former middle school, she hesitated.

“I think the bigger question is, will the community support paying 100 percent of the building repairs needed there?” she replied.

In January, the board will discuss the exit polls and the district’s options going forward, Armstrong-Hoffman said.