The Gananda School District is in trouble. A declining student population combined with excessive building led to the Western Wayne County District’s claim to being the seventh highest taxed school district in the state. “We used to be number two, so I guess we are getting better,” said Gananda Superintendent Shawn Van Scoy.
The District’s student population peaked in 2005-06 at 1192 students. Ryan Homes, the chief home builder in Gananda, was still on a roll, but the handwriting was on the wall. Ryan developed the last of the parcels in Gananda and any hope of future growth came to a halt. The student population has declined steadily to 1038 this year.
Gananda, a planned community, divided between the towns of Walworth and Macedon began in the 1970s with high hopes of being a small city-community with shops, churches and all the amenities. Plans fell far short of initial dreams, but it was still a fast-growing development. New families found reasonable home prices and the Gananda School District was born.
After the first school, located off in the middle of the dvelopment – outgrew its student population as a kindergarten through grade 12 facility, a new elementary school was built in 1988. In 2002, led by a small group of determined parents, a proposition to build a pool at the elementary school passed, along with the opening of the new high school building.
VanScoy admits that upkeep and chemicals required to maintain the pool has been a drain on the district and on taxpayers ever since it was built.
Making the situation even worse for Gananda and other Wayne County schools, the County is in discussions and has garnered much support from the Board of Supervisors to eliminate the County’s contribution of sales tax dollars to the districts. The County is also going through severe budget cuts and the sales tax monies have been discussed for several years. Gananda last year received $404,212.62 from the county, the amount received based upon population.
VanScoy said that when the District Annex was closed three months ago and offices were moved into the Middle School, the District saved $4,000 in just utility costs. “Our goal was to save $12,000 for a year.”
In a released statement the District wrote:
In response to continued fiscal stress and declining enrollment, the Gananda CSD Board of Education and Administration will be reviewing potential solutions to ensure that the district continues to provide a strong academic program and remains fiscally sound. These conversations will take place at Board of Education work sessions, which are meetings of the Board that are held in public. While conducting this review, the district will examine numerous potential solutions, many of which will be undesirable and may be met with strong emotional responses. We ask that the community have patience and understand that we must consider all options, not because we determine them viable or preferable, but because we feel it is our obligation to give the matter its due diligence. Consequently, we expect that topics such as increased taxes, reductions in programs, elimination of extra-curricular clubs and athletics, increased class sizes, closures of buildings, tuition-based programs for students in other districts and a school district merger will be discussed.
The review of an option at the Board table means that the district is attempting to understand the impact of the option. It is our intent to engage the community in a discussion of the realistic possibilities after our initial review, but before any decisions are made. Our hope is that by conducting a thorough review of the options, we will find viable solutions that serve the needs of our students and community.
Schedule for BOE due Diligence Discussions:
• Transportation – impact of instituting a walking district.
• Costs of athletics, Extracurricular activities, and Arts
• Ability to charge tuition for attendance of students living outside district boundaries
• Education on merger process
• Staffing levels
• Space configuration
• Review of building configurations for closure, reconfiguration or maintaining the status quo
• Review of potential for contracted services
• Lease of facilities to BOCES
• Night classes through partnerships with community colleges
• Expansion of online courses and/or distance learning
Because the BOE meeting format does not allow for conversation between the public and the Board we will also be holding Open Forums. The purpose of the open forums is to give the community the opportunity to engage Board members and the Superintendent in conversations about the due diligence meetings or topics that are important to the community.