Garrison Discusses Dropping Haldane

Board considers Putnam Valley as alternative

The Garrison school board is hoping to come to terms with the Haldane school district to continue sending its eighth-grade graduates to the Cold Spring high school but says it may work out a deal instead with Putnam Valley.

The issue was discussed at the board’s meeting on Wednesday (Oct. 12).

Garrison educates students only through the eighth grade, after which it pays tuition for those who attend Haldane or O’Neill High School in Highlands Falls.

But a budget crunch and a proposed hike in tuition by Haldane have compelled the district to reconsider how much it pays. Garrison has a five-year deal with O’Neill at a rate of $16,500 annually per student, which can increase at 2 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is less, said Superintendent Carl Albano. He said Putnam Valley has tentatively agreed to offer the same terms. 

Haldane had been charging Garrison less than it could under state law but proposed raising the fee in 2021-22 to the maximum allowed under the state’s non-resident tuition formula, about $21,500 annually. 

At a presentation during the Haldane school board meeting on Tuesday (Oct. 11), Superintendent Philip Benante said the actual cost of educating a Haldane student is closer to $27,000 a year.

Haldane has agreed to a four-year deal to charge $16,500 annually for each of the 53 Garrison students attending the high school so they will not have to switch schools. But for the Garrison Class of 2023 (which has 28 students) and beyond, the district wants the same deal from Haldane that it’s getting from O’Neill, said Albano.

“We don’t want to lose Haldane as a choice,” he said. “But our ability to pay is limited. We value their programs and we understand that they could charge more. We just can’t afford it.

“We started to explore options because we don’t have a confirmed rate for our students to go to Haldane in September,” he said.

A decision should be made within the next few weeks. “Mr. Albano and I agreed that it was in the best interest of both districts to understand the terms and conditions for our districts by the end of this month,” Benante said. 

School board members expressed interest in preserving the relationship between the neighboring districts. In Garrison, Kent Schacht said that losing Haldane “would be devastating for a lot of families.” A colleague on the board, David Gelber, said Garrison should consider adding Putnam Valley regardless. “It’s an extraordinary place,” he said, noting its international baccalaureate program. “As a parent, I would want my kid to have that option.”

Sean McNall, the president of the Haldane board, who attended the Wednesday meeting in Garrison, said he was gratified to hear its board members acknowledge the importance of the connection between the districts. “I’m committed to doing everything I can to maintain the relationship,” he said. 

2 thoughts on “Garrison Discusses Dropping Haldane

  1. Your account of our board meeting on Oct. 12 gives the incorrect impression that the Garrison School Board is considering dropping Haldane in order to add Putnam Valley High School as an option for our eighth-grade students. That’s just not the case.

    It’s accurate to say we’re thinking of adding Putnam Valley as an option for our graduates along with Haldane and O’Neill. But our highest priority is to resolve with Haldane how much we pay for each Garrison student attending Haldane. We all want to reach an agreement with Haldane that works for both parties.

    I was quoted accurately in the article saying of Putnam Valley High School: “It’s an extraordinary place. As a parent, I would want my kid to have that option.” I also noted that Garrison and Cold Spring are one community with a rich history, a feature no prospective student will ignore.

    Our oldest daughter is now a Haldane senior. She has had a positive, life-changing four years there. My wife and I are grateful to Haldane for the phenomenal experience she’s had. As a Garrison school board member, the last thing I’d want is to deprive Garrison students of the option of a Haldane education.

  2. Talk about what goes around, comes around! I never thought I’d see the day when Putnam Valley would be trying to entice another district to send their students to our high school.

    Everyone seems to have forgotten all the bad press and hard feelings there were about tuitioning back in the days before there was a PVHS. Turn on the Way Back Machine and look at what was happening in Putnam Valley in the 1980s, before our new high school was constructed. We were in a similar situation to Garrison and we tuitioned out our students to Lakeland/Panas. Before that, there was a choice of schools and at one time even Peekskill and Mahopac were options.

    There was a huge controversy in Put Valley that almost erupted into civil war before our high school was built. The town was about evenly divided between those who wanted to built a new school and those of us who felt it would be too expensive. Studies were done that showed the increase of students in the District was a bubble and enrollment would go down as it is doing now.

    Just like the situation today in Garrison, it was much cheaper to tuition our kids out to Lakeland, specifically Walter Panas, which had plenty of extra capacity. It offered us the deal of the century in terms of what it would cost per pupil, much less than it cost us inhouse.

    Yet there were parents and residents who insisted that our students needed to have their own town identity, or something like that. Nothing would do except to construct a new building that would be worthy of our high school students. There were other reasons, mostly left unsaid in public, as to why parents had their concerns about Panas that were obliquely described as “cultural.” I leave it to the reader to guess what that meant.

    The first referendum put on by the district was overturned because it was found guilty of “misinformation” regarding the cost. A second referendum was held and this one narrowly passed, thus saddling us with ever escalating costs, no matter how many students attend the school.

    I don’t know if there is any talk today in Garrison of building a new high school, but after what happened in Put Valley, I would strongly advise against it unless you can afford to have your school taxes triple, which is what happened over here.

    The tuition option is the best — you only pay for the students, not all the other fixed costs like construction, etc. If Put Valley had continued to send our students to Panas, my taxes would be a lot less than what they are today. If Garrison does agree to send their students to PVHS, perhaps it will be of some small benefit to the taxpayers of Putnam Valley.

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