Garrison School Steady at 200 Students

Also, budget cut by $159,000 but more to go

By Lily Gordon

The number of students in the Garrison school district will stabilize over the next few years, according to a report to the school board at its March 8 meeting by Barbara Graziano, program manager for planning services at Western Suffolk BOCES.

Although Garrison’s population has increased about 5 percent since 2000, the school district is nowhere near its peak of 295 students that year. Instead, the number has been hovering around 200 and is projected to stay there, she said.

“We’re finding overall that a lot of districts are starting to stabilize, but the enrollment numbers are lower than we used to see,” she said.

Grades two and three, both of which have two classes, are expected to fall to one each by 2021. One reason for the lower enrollment may be that 13 percent of families in Garrison send their children to private schools, compared with 3 percent in Putnam County overall.

In other business…

  • After review, the proposed 2017-18 budget has been decreased $159,200, to $10.45 million from $10.68 million. According to Sue Huetter, the district’s business administrator, the savings came from the consolidation of transportation, a reduction in tuition costs because several students opted to attend private high schools rather than Haldane or O’Neill and foregoing the hiring of a reading specialist, which the staff had called a priority. The district will still need to dip into its $3.5 million reserve fund to balance the budget, she said.
  • Instead of hiring a reading specialist, Garrison will have one teacher focus on literacy. “Will this be enough to satisfy the teachers’ concerns, after literacy was voiced as a problem?” asked board member James Hoch. Superintendent Laura Mitchell said the district needs time to see if the restructuring, coupled with the lessons learned from consultants from Words of Literacy, makes a difference. According to Principal John Griffiths, 40 students in grades kindergarten through 5 require moderate intervention and 31 require intensive intervention. The plan would allow the former to receive two sessions a week, and the latter three, which he said is more help than the students have been receiving.
  • The consolidation of bus routes would mean that the first students would be picked up seven minutes earlier in the morning, and in the afternoon the last students disembark seven minutes later, according to Facilities Director Dick Timmons.
  • The results of water testing at the school are available online at gufs.org. Sixteen sources remain above the state legal limit of 15 parts per billion of lead, including faucets in the girls’ and boys’ bathrooms.

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