LAMBERTVILLE — Bedford Public Schools officials voted unanimously Thursday night to close Smith Road Elementary as part of a consolidation plan to help make up a $4.6 million deficit projected by the end of the 2011-12 school year.
The elementary building, which houses about 430 students in kindergarten through grade six, will close at the end of the academic year in June. Students will be sent to the remaining four elementary schools in September.
Action taken by the Board of Education will mean that sixth graders will attend Bedford Junior High in September with seventh and eighth grade students. After listening to emotional pleas from parents, teachers, and students, a PowerPoint presentation was given by Superintendent Ted Magrum that outlined the criteria used to arrive at his recommendation to close Smith Road Elementary.
Mr. Magrum said the consolidation of the elementary schools will result in redistricting of the students and will necessitate bus route changes.
“It is a sad day,” board member Joe Gore said before the vote was taken. Shuttering the 40-year-old elementary is expected to save about $650,000 annually, and will affect administrative, custodial, and teaching staff.
School officials said the savings would be needed because budget deficits are expected to continue and enrollment at the elementary level decline for the next few years.
There are about 5,065 students in the district, down by nearly 465 from the 2003-04 school year.
School officials anticipate losing 90 more pupils for the next academic year.
Chris Costlow, the mother of a two students who attend Smith Road Elementary, said she was disappointed that her neighborhood elementary was targeted for closure.
“We moved here from Erie Township because we wanted our kids to attend school here. This is upsetting,” she said.
She said she was especially concerned for her daughter, now a 5th grader, because of the decision to merge the 6th grade level into the junior high.
“I don't believe she is mature enough to be around older children,” said Mrs. Costlow, who was among nearly 200 people who packed the cafeteria at Monroe Road Elementary for the board meeting.
Mr. Magrum said the district would like to hang on to the building, possibly lease the structure, but not sell it in the event that the economy improves and enrollment rebounds. However, he said the district doesn't have a potential tenant.