Binghamton City School District will try to rebuild ailing elementary school, but permanent closure is still on the table

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A parent speaks out against school closures at Tuesday night's packed school board meeting. At least 200 people were present virtually and in person. (Megan Zerez/WSKG)

Binghamton’s school district has been deliberating for months on whether or not to close an elementary school, and if so, which one. The district said enrollment is on the decline and it needs to cut costs.

But after Tuesday night’s packed school board meeting, there are still a lot of unanswered questions. Despite stiff opposition, it appears that a school closure is still a possibility.

When pressed, school board President Brian Whalen said there will be a temporary hold on any closures until the district has exhausted other options. One of those options is rebuilding Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School on Binghamton’s North Side.

“At this moment, we’re not going to close any schools,” Whalen said. “And we’re going to look at trying to get funding to build a new Roosevelt at $63 million.”

Roosevelt Elementary needs extensive asbestos remediation. Closing the school would result in the most savings for the district.

But New York state data shows the elementary school is also is the city’s most diverse. Roosevelt also ranks second for the largest share of low-income students.

Whalen cautioned a potential rebuild would require significant buy-in from Albany, and could even require approval from voters.

Still, board members say even if they can get the money to rebuild Roosevelt, closing another school is not out of the question.

“If we had to close a school, wouldn’t it be great to think of a brand-new 21st century school at the Roosevelt site that could accommodate not only the Roosevelt students but the Woodrow Wilson children?” Albert Penna, a school board member, said.

Several other school board members also named Wilson Elementary as a possible alternative candidate for closure, in part because the school could be easily re-opened if enrollment goes back up.

This isn’t the first time the board has opted to delay their final decision. This summer, after significant pushback from parents and teachers, the board agreed to hold a series of public meetings to gather more community feedback. Nearly all of that feedback has been in opposition to any school closures.

Watch the full school board meeting online here