SALAMANCA-The Salamanca City Central School District could be looking at continuing its operations with one less school building.
This is because the district's board of education approved an offer from the Seneca Nation of Indians to begin purchase discussions in the potential sale of its Seneca Elementary School.
"The offer by the Seneca Nation of Indians and (Tuesday's) acceptance of this offer by the board of education is an important first step," Robert Breidenstein, Salamanca district superintendent, told the Salamanca Press. "At this point in time, it's just an offer to sit down and have a conversation, but I would be remiss if I told you it wasn't a legitimate, serious offer from the nation."
He added: "The board of education has a fiduciary obligation to seriously entertain this legitimate inquiry, and determine a course of action and timeline."
The unanimous decision came after a two-hour executive session on Tuesday evening, and is only the first step in a long line of studies and processes to move forward with such a sale. The district will first need to complete a list of necessary tasks, including obtaining a full comprehensive appraisal of the building and conducting studies on how the sale of the school would affect transportation, food service, classroom space and other factors.
Should the viability of such a decision be proven acceptable following these studies, the potential sale would ultimately come down to a vote by district residents.
"There are a significant number of steps and processes that need to happen; partially because of New York state and partially because the community owns the building," said Breidenstein. "(Because of this), the building is not for sale, but we're in a position where we have a third party with significant resources who's interested in purchasing the building. The community must, through referendum, approve the sale."
Seneca Elementary School is one of two elementary schools in the Salamanca school district, and currently serves students from grades 4 to 6. Breidenstein said that the district has the physical means to accommodate the displaced students, should the sale come to fruition, but that the district will need to do studies on common areas such as cafeterias and gymnasiums.
"We have more than enough classroom space," he said. "We can fit students and staff in the building, but the question is, 'Can we properly house them in instructional settings?'"
Carmen Vecchiarelli, Salamanca mayor, also issued a press release stating that his conversations with Breidenstein made him aware of some of the issues facing the school district, such as declining enrollment and the general upkeep of three campuses.
"We both realize that the school's attendance has been declining each year, and also that a consolidation of services in many areas may be needed or need to be discussed," he said. "I realize that trying to maintain three buildings must be a burden to many. I also realize that many things need to be up for discussion, but now may be the time if there is a potential buyer rather than waiting and having to close the facility down. If it were to be closed, there would still be many costs to the school, such as utilities, leases and maintenance."
He added: "I also learned that the employees would still be working in their capacity, but only a different location. Selling the building seems to be the way to go, if that's what the board of education and the voters want."