In response to a question, Rowley said most neighboring schools are in better shape financially than Oneonta. It needs to make these decisions now to stay solvent, he said.
Middle School Principal Kevin Johnson said that while the changes are still being discussed, if they occur, “more kids will have a better middle school experience” because there would be an extra year in the program.
In response to concerns expressed about sixth-graders being with older students, Rowley said that the new configuration would mean about 400 students in grades six through eight. It is small enough that students will be with others they know, including at least five of the sixth-grade teachers who would make the transition.
While it might be educational advantage, there was no denying the changes were taking place because of the economic realities. “I do not see any alternatives to this,” he said.
After the meeting two people in attendance had questions about what they heard. Noelle Forbes, a sixth-grade teacher at Laurens Central School who has two children in the Oneonta district, said it was “frustrating” that all the cuts weren’t presented. She said she thought it was inequitable to propose these cuts while other areas, such as administration, were untouched.
“Generally people understand we have to trim the fat,” she said.
Rowley said during the meeting that he can’t talk about other cuts until the situation was discussed with personnel that might be affected.
Guidance counselor Celeste Leone, also at Laurens, with no children in the school, said if the change to middle school is made, she hoped the 6th graders have the own space. What Johnson said about the situation made her feel better, but she was still concerned.