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Fowler School closing saddens community

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BALMAT — Parents remain sad that Fowler Elementary School is closing but seem resigned to it, said a town councilman who organized a recent meeting to gauge community sentiment.

Rick W. Newvine organized a meeting Saturday to determine whether the public wanted to pursue options to keep the school open. The Gouverneur Central School board voted in February to shut the school at the end of the academic year.

About two dozen people attended the meeting, Mr. Newvine said.

“It was nice to see people come out. All of the parents who were there didn’t want it closed,” he said. “It’s a part of our heritage.”

Participants discussed whether voting down the district budget could mean Fowler school would stay open.

“I think the general consensus was it’s not worth it. Why put a hardship on the rest of the community?” Mr. Newvine said. “It’s a sign of the times. Everybody closes schools.”

The district’s $32.6 million budget, which would increase the tax levy 3.5 percent, is not tied directly to the board’s decision to close the school. The closure is expected to save several hundred thousand dollars the first year, but it is more about declining enrollment and unused classrooms in other elementary schools, Superintendent Lauren F. French said.

“Fowler had to be a long-range decision,” she said. “Voting no on the budget will not change the board’s decision.”

Mr. Newvine said Fowler School parents were pleased with how the district has worked to acclimate the pupils to their new schools.

The district paired each Fowler pupil with a fellow student at either East Side or West Side elementary schools, has had joint staff meetings, combined sessions of the parent/teacher groups from each school, and had Fowler pupils visit the other elementary schools. A large meet-and-greet is planned for June.

Administrators and First Student, which contracts with the district to provide student busing, are looking at computer-aided routes, Mrs. French said.

The board has not begun its study yet of what to do with the Fowler building, she said.

Fowler Supervisor Michael J. Cappellino has said the town might be interested in the building for its offices, but Mr. Newvine is not of like mind because of the potential expense. However, Mr. Newvine would like to see the school used in a way that would benefit the community.

“We don’t want a big eyesore there,” he said.

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