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West Carthage Elementary pre-K program may be moved

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WEST CARTHAGE — West Carthage universal prekindergarten students may be sent to Black River Elementary next year.

Carthage Central School District Superintendent Peter J. Turner asked Board of Education members at Monday’s meeting at Carthage High School if they were interested in having the students sent to Black River because of space constraints.

The board will wait for the community to respond before making any decisions.

“West Carthage is interested because they need the space,” Mr. Turner said. “Black River is interested because they have the space.”

The programs at Carthage, West Carthage and Black River have 18 students each, which is the maximum space allotted per pre-K program at the district.

Mr. Turner said many parents walk their children to the pre-K program at Carthage Elementary, but that is not the case at West Carthage. Busing the students still would be free.

“John Gibbons doesn’t think it would be a big challenge to bus students in the West Carthage zone to Black River Elementary,” Mr. Turner said, referring to the district’s transportation director.

However, he said Mr. Gibbons was concerned about how much time it would take to transport students from farther locations, especially because the bus experience likely would be the first for young pre-K students. It would be especially problematic for those in the Carthage Elementary zone, some of whom can live as far away as Natural Bridge.

Board member Mary Louise Hunt suggested allowing pre-K students living in Carthage to continue to go to the local elementary school while those on Fort Drum get bused to Black River.

“It would still be OK for those who walk their children there,” she said. “I think it’s a solution to a difficult problem.”

She emphasized that the pre-K program is a free service that is based on a lottery system.

Assistant Superintendent Andrea K. Miller said the program is very popular and has a waiting list. However, due to the people constantly moving on post, nearly all on the waiting list eventually get in.

Board member Kent D. Burto agreed that community members should have the opportunity to voice questions or concerns about changes before a decision is made. However, because parents are signing up their children now for next year’s program, he felt timing is important.

“I do think we need to make a decision sooner than later,” Mr. Burto said.

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