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[January 01, 2013]

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Dec 26, 2012 (The Journal-Register - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- A new era began for Medina and Lyndonville this year with the reorganization of both communities' school districts, but not before difficult decisions and heartfelt sendoffs were given to two buildings closed this summer.

Both districts went forward with plans that reduced the number of buildings used for instruction while also moving to a single bus run and other cost-saving measures ahead of the 2012-13 school year. They also continued a partnership that gave students the opportunity to cross district lines for performing arts and athletics programs that aren't available at their home school.

For Medina, that meant closing Towne Primary School, the only remaining neighborhood school still used by MCSD. Many residents of the area surrounding the Bates Road school expressed sadness with the closure of the place where their children had received their first taste of a Medina education.

In Lyndonville, the move was shorter but no less emotional. While only two grades of classes have been held across from the main campus at the 1930s building, there are generations who received all their education there at a time when the school housed all 12 grades. There was room at L.A. Webber High School to fit them all now.

The decisions made locally are not unique, as they are part of an era where the future of public education is uncertain. In a recent survey of school administrators, 41 percent said they were concerned about insolvency in the next two years; another nine percent had the same concerns for the next five years. Declining class sizes added an impetus to take decisive actions.

While both local districts are more confident about their finances, school board members said they needed to make major changes to avoid increasing class sizes, reductions in student offerings and a loss of local control.

Maureen Blackburn, then-President of the Medina Board of Education, was among a six-vote majority that voted to Towne at the end of the 2011-12 school year. She said the cuts needed to close the school's budget deficit while keeping Towne open would be too damaging to classroom instruction.

"We're well beyond right-sizing," Blackburn said. "I can't do that to students and teachers ... if it means I have to vote to close Towne, it's what I'll do." The decisions followed months of public meetings that explored alternative plans and aspects of a single-campus district. But neither district sent away their schools without celebrating what made them special. Medina's teachers held a celebration at Towne in June; Lyndonville waited until homecoming week to close the door on the elementary school.

At Lyndonville's ceremony, dozens of former students and teachers toured the halls and reflected fondly on artifacts of an earlier era of education.

"There were no (interactive) whiteboards," retired principal Nancy Good reminisced. "We had blackboards with white dusty chalk." In their new set-ups, both Medina and Lyndonville have given students access to a new level of technology that is as modern as their old schools were timeless. While there are fewer halls to tred, and whole grades of classrooms and grades shifted around to accomodate incoming students; both districts are moving forward in their new eras.

They will do it together. Lyndonville's community study group recommended a course of action that keeps LCSD in Lyndonville as long as possible, but the second option would be to explore a merger with Medina. Both schools recently approved sharing football, boy's soccer, cross country, theater and marching band opportunities for the next two years.

Contact reporter Jim Krencik at 798-1400, ext. 6327.

___ (c)2013 The Journal-Register (Medina, N.Y.) Visit The Journal-Register (Medina, N.Y.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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