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.