The Friends of Otwell tasked with trying to find a way to keep Otwell Elementary School open past next May made several requests of the Pike Central School Corporation Board of Trustees Monday night for information on the closing of the school.
From a two-page letter, Michael Houtsch, president of the board of the Friends of Otwell read the requests. The letter included:
Has there been any change in your decision to close Otwell Elementary School? The answer from school superintendent Suzanne Blake was ‘no.’
Houtsch asked if the board would at least be willing to delay the closing of the school for a year, but no action was taken by the board on the request, thereby signifying that no changes would be made in the plans.
He then asked when parents would be notified of which school their children would be transferred to and while Blake did not give a definitive answer, but she told those in attendance that the dividing line for students attending Winslow Elementary or Petersburg Elementary would be SR 56. Those south of the road will go to Winslow, while those north of 56 will go to Petersburg Elementary.
The question about bus routes brought the response from Blake that routes would be re-examined for efficiency.
Blake said there’s no discussion about moving 5th grade students to the Middle School, nor is there talk about putting a day care or preschool at Otwell. Finally, when asked, Blake reiterated that the deadline of December 31st still stands for Friends of Otwell to come up with a plan to keep the school open.
Afterwards, we spoke with Blake who said nothing about the Otwell decision has changed:
Blake and the board is concentrating on finding savings in their budget to stem the tide of losses. She said they are making significant progress:
Blake’s presentation to the board showed a reduction in the amount of money needed in the form of a loan to keep the school corporation finances viable going forward.
Statistics she presented also showed that the school’s deficit spending started in 2009 and has grown every year since, except for 2015.
She said that the biggest savings are from staffing reductions across the board, which amounts to $3.7 million. Other reductions amount to $1.9 million.
The proposed 2015 deficit is expected to be $5.2 million.