Letter: School Consolidation

Just after Philipstown children have begun to play with, learn together and learn from each other, we weaken one of our most important opportunities to build cohesion and common identity in the community: We separate the children along our antiquated school-district boundaries.

Although the outdated district lines long have been a point of contention for many, in lieu of resurfacing the associated issues a Philipstown Community Congress working group is focused on plotting a path forward that works for the Philipstown community as a whole. The first step is creating policy parity across the three districts.

In August, the Philipstown Community Congress concluded an online vote to ratify a platform based on the simple idea that children who grow up playing in Philipstown together should have the chance to be educated together. This document (online at bit.ly/pcc-school) advocates a petition of the Garrison Union Free School District to adopt a non-resident tuition policy similar to that of the Lakeland and Haldane districts. The vote passed with 88 percent approval, and the petition has launched at ecologicalcitizens.org. We encourage all members of the Philipstown community to visit the page, review the platform and sign on.

A non-resident tuition policy would allow Philipstown families residing outside the Garrison district to pay tuition for their children to attend the Garrison School. This is a short-term measure that would bring the three districts into parity so that larger, cross-district discussions can take place, with the goal of any family in Philipstown being able to find the right classrooms for their children, without incurring out-of-pocket expense.

It is important to note that this effort requires close collaboration with the Garrison Board of Education. The Philipstown Community Congress and our working group, specifically, wishes to express the utmost gratitude for the dedication and sacrifices made by school board members across all three districts who serve our community tirelessly and often thanklessly. We are aware that adding to their workload is a significant ask. Yet as Philipstown residents we all share an unwavering dedication to strengthening our community, a sentiment best taught early and often, at home as well as in the classroom.

With the support of friends and neighbors via the petition, we look forward to working with the Garrison, Lakeland and Haldane boards on expanding schooling options for local families.

Eric and Carolyn Arnold, Garrison

The letter was also signed by Anita Prentice (a former Garrison school board president), Mark Kenny, Alex and Katie MacInnes, Joshua Kaplan, Diana Hird, Jesse Lubbers, Joel and Ali Beckerman, Eliza Starbuck, and Terrence O’Brien.

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