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Local school leaders react to Fort Drum cuts

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As Fort Drum loses 1,500 soldiers in the next four years, enrollment at north country schools will see a decline.

Area superintendents that have the biggest percentage of military-related students are waiting to find out how the change will affect their districts.

About 65.2 percent of Indian River Central School students are from military families.

“We were aware that there would be troop level reductions, and 1,500 is not as severe as originally predicted,” Superintendent James Kettrick said. “It was also mentioned that this drawdown would be over a period of years; therefore an incremental reduction is helpful.”

Tuesday’s announcement was made by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno during a press briefing at the Pentagon. With the announcement comes the loss of the 10th Mountain Division’s 3rd Brigade Combat Team. The soldiers in the brigade who do not leave will be placed in the remaining two brigades.

What concerns Mr. Kettrick and his administration, however, was the announcement that sequestration — across-the-board federal cuts — could bring even more troop reductions.

Over the course of the school year, the district Board of Education explored a capital project to add classrooms, rezone elementary schools or even build a new elementary school in case the post announced it was adding troops.

“The knowledge of 1,500 less troops as well as the potential of sequestration cuts would all have to be weighed by the board,” Mr. Kettrick said.

Carthage Central School District has the second largest military-related enrollment in the area, at 56 percent of the students.

“It’s difficult to know what the impact would be on the district,” Superintendent Peter J. Turner said.

From the information he knows now, he does not see any staff reductions resulting from a decline in enrollment.

As a private school, Immaculate Heart Central could see a loss of revenue because of reductions in the number of troops. The school often advertises to families living on post.

“My biggest reaction is we’re very disappointed to see cuts at Fort Drum, because Fort Drum is a valued part of the community,” Executive System Administrator Christopher E. Hornbarger said. “I expect we’ll see an impact on enrollment.”

However, he said, he’s willing to take on the challenge to keep enrollment from dropping too low.

“Our approach to enrollment is to focus on the things we can affect,” he said.

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