by Jeff Cole

The Cattaraugus-Little Valley Central School District is contemplating what to do with its soon-to-be-vacant Little Valley campus building.

Most recently, the 55,000-square-foot edifice housed the district’s Little Valley prekindergarten class, third- and fourth-grade classes and a prekindergarten classroom that was leased to BOCES. After this school year, the structure, which is located at 207 Rock City St., will no longer be used for educational purposes because the district is closing down the Little Valley campus.

Jon Peterson, district superintendent, said that the district is in the middle of exploring all options for the utilization of that building.

“Probably the most serious option is county government in some form or fashion and probably the most serious option from county government is the (Cattaraugus County) Board of Elections,” he said

The current Cattaraugus County Board of Elections building, which is located at 302 Court St. in Little Valley, is in need of major renovation, according to Jack Searles, county administrator. He said that the county has “for a number of years explored a number of different options associated with the Board of Elections,” and that the Little Valley school building is simply one of those options that the county continues to explore.

“There’s been no definitive decision one way or another as to whether we are going to move in that direction or not. There have been actually several tours of the school itself by different committees of the county legislature. They’re looking at it and we are attempting to see if it meets some of our needs. If it does, we would move forward with it, but, again, at this point in time, there’s no definitive decision made with regard to it,” he said.

While other potential buyers for the school building have been talked about, the only formal discussions between the district and the county administrator regarding the matter have concerned the Board of Elections, according to Superintendent Peterson. He said the district is also working to rent out more space to BOCES.

“They’re still in the middle of deciding where all their programs go, so we haven’t heard anything either yay or nay about BOCES’ intent,” said Superintendent Peterson.

Though closing the campus remained only a possibility before this past year, a number of contributing factors made it a realization for the district, including the tax levy cap, declining enrollment, facing program and position cuts and having to bridge a $2,019,347 budget gap for the upcoming school year.

Ultimately, the Cattaraugus-Little Valley Central School District Board of Education decided in April to close the campus and bring the school’s 157 students to Cattaraugus for the next school year. The district will be forced to lay off a physical education teacher because of the move.

Closing the campus, according to Peterson, will save the district $250,000 for the 2012-13 school year and could also result in another $200,000 savings by 2014.

“In 2014, the state assessments all go online, which means every district will need the capacity to enable all of their students or many of their students to be on a computer taking an assessment at the same time and we don’t have any fiber optics into that building in order to do that, so we knew we would have to upgrade for that, so I have an estimate of upwards of $200,000 to achieve that,” he said.

In addition to shutting down the campus as a means to fix the budget gap, the district also appropriated more than a million dollars from its fund balance; received concessions from its teachers’ union; froze all non-unionized salaries; eliminated three teaching positions, three classified positions and a varsity sport; and reduced another varsity sport in half among other actions. Peterson, who voluntarily froze his salary, said that though the decision to close the school was very difficult, it was the best move for the school financially and educationally, and he emphasized that finding a buyer for the building is a high priority of his.

“I consider it my goal to ensure that somehow that building is utilized and of course it would be great if it actually would realize some revenue for the district, as well,” he said.

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