Tuxedo board votes to keep high school open

George F. Baker High faced with challenges since enrollment decreased

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After years of uncertainty and heated debate, the Tuxedo Board of Education voted on Nov. 16 to keep George F. Baker High School open.

The vote was 6-1, with School Board President Allyson Arber casting the dissenting vote.

“It’s been a very long process,” said Tuxedo Superintendent Nancy Teed, “but I appreciate the fact that the board did their due diligence in weighing the pros and cons associated with the decision.

“Ultimately, the board decision was made with the best interests of the students and the community in mind.”

The debate over future of the high school began when Greenwood Lake cancelled its long-standing contract and stopped sending students to George F. Baker High School in 2015, decreasing district enrollment by two-thirds. Since then, the district has sought non-resident students to pay tuition to attend the high school, but recruiting these students has continued to be a challenge.

Over the last few months, the school board and the community has reviewed a study done by independent consulting firm FourPoint Education Partners, which laid out the options for the high school.

This year, the 7-12th grade high school has 105 students, with 75 students in grades 9-12, according to online state education department data. In total, the district has 235 students, with the smallest grade  — third grade — with eight students.

Per-pupil spending was $47,867 in the 2015-16 school year, much higher than the state average of $23,361.

If the board had decided to close the high school, students would have been sent to one of the four nearby high schools, most of which are much larger: Monroe-Woodbury; Suffern; Ramsey, N.J. or Northern Highlands Regional, N.J.

Still some concernWhile much of the audience clapped when the school board announced their decision, not all residents are happy with the decision.

A group of concerned Tuxedo residents released a statement, but wished to remain anonymous:

“We are disappointed with the outcome of this vote,” the statement reads. “Many families would prefer a better choice for a High School and over time we do believe, due to continually declining enrollment and many other factors, the school will eventually be forced to close. We will continue to work to ensure everyone in Tuxedo is educated on the facts, and look forward to the future. We, and the children of Tuxedo, deserve better options for High School.”

What’s next?As for the school board’s next steps, Teed said the board is looking to form a strategic planning committee, which will include various stakeholders, so a long term plan can be developed.

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