Closing AES would be tanta-mount to ripping the heart out of one of Guilderland’s finest communities

To the Editor:

My wife, Kristin, and I read with dismay the recent headline concerning the possible closing of Altamont Elementary School.

Our dismay turned to consternation from what appears to be a narrow, generic (“green eyeshades”) report containing non sequiturs, inconsistencies, and earmarks of a predetermined outcome.

Superintendent Marie Wiles’s inexplicable comment did nothing to allay that concern: “It may be we decide to spend $1.2 million because we want our kids to have a lemonade stand in the middle of Altamont.”

Would not an unbiased report present clear alternatives, rather than focusing on closing Altamont Elementary School (four of five scenarios)?

Would not a comprehensive report consider social, environmental, and cultural values, rather than just readily measurable costs?

Why was redistricting not considered a valid scenario? Would not redistricting be clearly preferable to closing any elementary school?

Would a rational report suggest closing a Blue Ribbon elementary school with a stable school population rather than one with declining enrollment?

Would a common-sense report suggest busing kids (a number of whom now walk to school) from 30 up to possibly 60 minutes in bad weather?

How could a consultant (with a modicum of knowledge of the Altamont community) assert with a straight face that closing the school would not adversely affect Altamont area property values?

Would a balanced report fail to discuss the environmental costs of increased busing, to say nothing of parents who would choose daily to drive kids rather than having them endure a 30 to 60 minute bus ride?

Would a reasoned report recommend closing the elementary school serving the poorest families, thus laying off the social and economic costs on those least able to absorb them?

How could a consultant assert, “There is nothing going on up there,” apparently unaware of homes under construction, as well as Altamont’s demography (large numbers of Baby Boomers and older population) and, as a consequence, the ongoing and future turnover of homes to younger families.

We urge the Guilderland School Board to seek responsible, non-spin answers to each question. A consultant who applies a generic template methodology without acknowledging unique community factors has not served taxpayers well.

Closing the Altamont Elementary School would be tantamount to ripping the heart out of one of Guilderland’s finest communities.

John E. and Kristin Smith


Editor’s note: John and Kristin Smith state that they moved with tree young sons to Altamont 35 years ago in large measure because Altamont offered a community elementary school.

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