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UPDATE: Closure of Lawrence Elementary Doesn't Solve Budget Woes

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UPDATE 3/25/2014 4:45 PM

Budget cuts are closing an elementary school.

A failed levy leaves the Frontier school board with a tough decision.

The board voted Monday night to close Lawrence Elementary School.

Superintendent Bruce Kidder says this was not an easy decision.

It's sad, but he says something had to be done because they just don't have enough money.

And even closing one elementary school still doesn't solve all their budget issues.

Dating back to 1935, Lawrence didn't become just an elementary school until 1968.

Right now there are only 41 students attending kindergarten through sixth grade.

There are three full-time teachers and one part-time.

The students and teachers will now be moved to either New Matamoras or Newport Elementary next year.

"My heart goes out to the Lawrence community out there. I serve as their principal out there also," says Kidder. "Closing either one of the two buildings would not keep me off the ballot in November."

"It's hard, it's really strong community support," says Lawrence Elementary teacher Brad Eddy. "It's a nice place to work and it's a nice community..it's sad to see anything close."

Kidder says New Matamoras community members at the meeting Monday night agreed they would vote yes towards a levy this November in return for not closing down Matamoras Elementary School.

Kidder says Lawrence will not be taken down right now - if ever.

Years ago there was a leak from an underground gasoline tank they used to fill up the buses.

He is still working with the EPA.

If they were to sell the property and it was no longer a school, they have to find the original land owner.


UPDATE 3/25/2014 10:15 AM

After a major levy defeat one local school district made a tough decision Monday night to close one of three elementary schools.

Hundreds showed up to let the board know how they feel about it.

Over 300 people filled the cafeteria at Frontier High School Monday night wearing t-shirts and voicing their opinions.

With Lawrence Elementary turning 90-years-old this year and located on flood territory, some of those in attendance wanted the board to close it and keep Matamoras Elementary open.

Superintendent Bruce Kidder addressed the crowd, showing the money the board could save by closing Matamoras Elementary, which is only 12-years-old.

But dozens spoke to the board, telling them why they should keep the school open.

After the mayor of New Matamoras presented a petition with over 600 signatures to keep that school open the board decided to vote.

The motion failed three to two and those in attendance were not happy.

Once more people spoke the board took a second vote and it passed three to two to close Lawrence and keep Matamoras open.

"The board finally made the right decision. I hate seeing any school close. But common sense finally prevailed over the meeting," says New Matamoras Mayor John Schmidt.

"What will come next is we will look at the process of dividing those students up and that will be by geographics," says Superintendent Bruce Kidder. "We're going to try and make as short of bus routes as possible for those kids."

This will only be in effect for next school year.

After that the board will decide whether to go ahead with a resolution for the 2015 school year to go by grade level, making one school kindergarten through third and another fourth through sixth.


UPDATE 3/24/2014 5:00 PM

A recent levy defeat brings some tough decisions for a local school board.

The Frontier Board of Education Monday will talk about closing one of its three elementary schools.

Newport and Matamoras Elementary are the newest of the school buildings, and have the larger enrollments.

The oldest, and smallest in terms of students, is Lawrence Elementary.

But a New Matamoras voter worries Matamoras Elementary may be on the chopping block.

"We don't want to see any schools closed," says Dallas Riggs. "But, as the board is saying, one of the schools has to be closed, and we've heard a lot about it's going to be Matamoras. And Matamoras people are really upset about it being Matamoras school."

Superintendent Bruce Kidder would not confirm which of the schools could close.

It's also not certain whether a decision will be made Monday night.

Expect plenty of people living in the district to let the board know how they feel Monday night
.
We'll be there and have the latest Monday on WTAP News at 11.


UPDATE 11/20/2013 5:00 PM

The Frontier voters made it very clear, but now come the cuts.

It could come to possibly combining elementary schools and dropping art and music classes.

With the loss of the levy for Frontier Schools during the last election, Superintendent Bruce Kidder says the schools will not survive as they are now.

These cuts will not affect this school year or most of 2014.

However, in 2015, Kidder says the possibility of combining three elementary schools into one is on the planning board.

"The quality will be fine, I think we do a nice job educating as it is," he says. "We will be able to maximize our resources better, that will allow us - in my mind at least - saving on probably five or six teaching positions."

Kidder says this will hurt the community school concept that Frontier has worked so hard to maintain, but it is expensive to run three elementary schools and if they don't make some drastic changes they will completely run out of money.

Other options include taking programs out of the high schools, but Kidder says he really doesn't want to do that.


UPDATE 11/06/2013 05:10 PM

Frontier voters soundly defeat an emergency school levy on a six to one margin.

The key question is, what now?

This isn't just about a failed school levy in tough times.

It's as much about tough times affecting this district.

The community is hurting and torn on the issue.

This levy was the talk of the town Wednesday.

Six times more people voted no than yes.

Those who voted for the levy, are passionate but say they know why people voted no.

Those who voted no, understand the need but are not sure how to fix it.

Long time board member Jeff Lauer says the school district is in great need of new supplies, money for busing and more.

With the economy and the closing of Ormet, a lot of people in the community lost their jobs.

They have no extra money to pay the levy.

Lauer says there are a lot of reasons and everyone has their own opinion why they voted each way, but the community needs to work together or a levy is never going to pass.

"Ormet closing, that didn't help matters any, a lot of people they are still fighting community wise," he says. "We do have two areas, three areas not working as a whole you're going to have controversy."

"And I even support the people who didn't because I understand where they are coming from. Like I said I'm working two jobs and I can't afford to pay anymore either," says Brenda Heiney, a classroom aid at Newport School. "So I have mixed emotions both ways, but we do have to do what's best for our kids - they're whats going to be our future."

Community members outside Newport Elementary Wednesday were torn - many feeling strongly about the issue but not wanting to talk on camera.

One mother says she is concerned about her daughter's future in the school system.

She said without this levy passing she may remove her from the district because she has no other choice.

But everyone seemed to understand why it didn't pass - the money in the community is just not there. ____________________________________________________
Taxpayer money is tight.

That makes it tough on school levies.

Renewal levies aren't a given anymore and it's a steeper hill to climb when districts say they need new money.

What makes this issue different from others is that it is an additional levy - one which some we've spoken to consider excessive

It is for 9.19 mills and it is the first additional levy the Frontier School system has sought in 14 years.

But the superintendent says the additional money is needed, in part to offset losses of state and federal funds.

And, in recent years, the school system has had enrollment declines.

"Frontier was over a thousand students about 10 to 12 years ago. We're down to about 720," says Superintendent Bruce Kidder. "I believe a lot of that is because of the economics in the area, and families having trouble finding jobs."

But a voter we spoke to, who says he has supported levies in the past, has his doubts about this one.

"By adding this much to it, it takes my taxes up to over $1200 in one lump sum," says Newport resident Tom Watkins. "I don't mind a levy, but not one of this magnitude all at once."

The ballot language says the levy, if passed, would add 91 cents to a person's property tax bill, for each $100 of the value of his property.

Kidder adds the school system has made spending reductions in recent years, including not filling some teacher jobs which became vacant due to retirements.

The superintendent is concerned about what effect recent economic news will have on the levy vote, both with the recently announced closings at Ormet Aluminum across the county line, and the ongoing dispute in Washington over the federal budget.


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