Parents Fight Closing of Local Elementary Schools

Branch Brook Elementary School Sign Photo by Lindsay Andarakis

By Lindsay Andarakis and Demi Guo

Fifteen parents attended a Board of Education meeting held by the Smithtown Central School District on Tuesday night to question the plan to close Branch Brook Elementary School. Superintendent James J. Grossane said the closure is geared to solve enrollment problems in the district.

“It was a rushed decision,” Peter Trioano, a father of two Branch Brook students, said before the meeting. The West Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services, which provides statistics, and the BOE had usually studied each building’s zoning, population and utilities before choosing a school for closure. “I don’t think they did that this time,” he added.

Branch Brook is about 90 percent filled and utilized, Troiano said, but it was chosen because it was the smallest sized school out of eight in the district. The others are each about 55 percent utilized, according to BOCES Enrollment Projections for Housing Options, the history and projection report.

Parents also argued that closing down schools is useless. Closing schools including the nearby Nesconset Elementary School as recently as 2012 has not abated the enrollment decline, according to the BOCES report.

Since 2009, the district’s student enrollment has dropped from 743 to 508 in 2015, according to the BOCES projections.

But one school’s closure, BOE trustee Grace Plourde argued, would save $725,000 a year.

“Every dollar spent at New York dies,” Katie Healy, another Branch Brook parent, said, “and every dollar spent at Branch Brook flies!”

Grossane proposed relocating 79 percent of Branch Brook students to Mount Pleasant Elementary and 21 percent to Smithtown Elementary. Twenty-three percent of Mount Pleasant’s students would then move to Smithtown Elementary.

“Our schools are the fabric of our community and shuttering does not solve declining enrollment,” William Cavallo, a Smithtown resident, said. “These children we are taking resources from to keep taxes down are the next generation of doctors, lawyers and teachers of Smithtown.”

Less than 4,000 out of the 50,000 households that make up the Smithtown School District came out to vote on school closure decisions last May, Plourde said.

“Some kids might have trouble adjusting,” Trioano said.

The BOE declined to comment outside the meeting.

The BOE is holding another meeting on the issue in Smithtown’s administrative building Thursday night.