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Decision No. 13,641

Appeal of EDWARD SABUDA from action of the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of Lackawanna regarding the closing of a school.

Appeal of JAMES L. MICHEL, on behalf of JONATHAN C. MICHEL, from action of the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of Lackawanna regarding the closing of a school.

Decision No. 13,641

(August 6, 1996)

Carl W. Morgan, Esq., attorney for petitioners

Joseph V. Deren, Jr., Esq., attorney for respondent

SHELDON, Acting Commissioner.--Petitioner Edward Sabuda and Petitioner James Michel appeal certain actions taken by the Board of Education of the City School District of the City of Lackawanna ("respondent"). Because the appeals are based on the same facts, they are consolidated for decision. The appeals must be dismissed.

Petitioner Sabuda is a former member of respondent board. Petitioner Michel is a resident of the district and parent of a child in respondent's pre-kindergarten program. On February 26, 1996, a special meeting of respondent board was called by the board president for March 1, 1996 to resolve "administrative office problems at Washington School." Upon motion of respondent board, a resolution was passed that stated that the condition at the Washington School was unhealthy and dangerous, and that space available in the Lackawanna High School building could be used for central administration and the district's pre-kindergarten program. The resolution called for the clearing of the "shop wing" in the high school and the hiring of maintenance workers to clear out that area. These appeals ensued. Petitioners' requests for interim relief were both denied on March 22, 1996.

Petitioners allege that respondent intends to relocate the district's pre-kindergarten program to a storage area in the high school and that the location is inadequate. Petitioners also allege that the existing location of the program poses no immediate threat to the health or safety of students and staff. Finally, petitioners allege that respondent violated Education Law '402-a, procedures for closing a school building, by passing the resolution. Respondent contends that its resolution was limited in nature and did not authorize the closing of the school or the transfer of the pre-kindergarten program.

Although petitioners contend that the resolution passed by respondent authorized the closing of the school and the transfer of students and staff, my reading of the resolution finds that it is more limited than petitioners' characterizations. The resolution merely authorized the hiring of additional maintenance staff to clear the shop wing, sell property no longer in use and make an appropriate determination for possible uses of the space, which could potentially include the pre-kindergarten program and administration. Respondent contends that this action was necessary in view of the fact that the Washington School is in disrepair and that a bond resolution authorizing the construction of a new elementary school was opposed by members of the board. Respondent asserts that it needed to consider its space options in view of the factors cited above.

My review of the record indicates that the resolution is limited in scope, and that none of the actions taken by respondent were inappropriate. The resolution does not authorize the closing of the Washington School. In its answer, respondent acknowledges its obligations to comply with provisions of law and regulation pertaining to school closings, should that action become necessary. Based on the record before me, there is no basis for me to substitute my judgment for that of respondent.