BY ROBERT KNIGHT
Congers Elementary School is being re-built on all exterior walls, following action by the Clarkstown Central School District Board of Education last winter. At first, school officials indicated it would be too expensive to repair the structurally ailing 90-year-old school, and announced it would be closed instead. A massive campaign by angered Congers residents eventually resulted in approval of a multi-million dollar bond issue last summer to accomplish the needed repairs, but the building’s future has remained in doubt ever since.
For the 2014-15 school year, Congers Elementary pupils were bused to Lakewood and New City Elementary. Use was also made of the closed St. Augustine’s Catholic School in New City, which the school board leased from that church. For the following year, the district intends to break the students into three groups and re-distribute them to three neighboring public elementary schools with vacant classroom space available due to dwindling enrollments.
Congers parents, in the meantime, remain upset that their children still will not be attending their hometown school. They also remain annoyed that their tax money is being used to rehabilitate a building that will apparently never be used again for the purpose they had intended.
A member of the school board told the Rockland County Times, “The school district has stated the future use of Congers Elementary is for educational purposes, including the re-location of the district’s day care center, as well as the expansion of the school district’s Community Learning Center (which hosts several adult education classes.) Both of these programs are owned and operated by the Clarkstown Central School District and are for educational purposes, not administrative purposes.”
However, fears abound in the community regarding what use it might actually have.
While the debate on the building’s future remains unclear, its reconstruction is very evident to passing motorists. Scaffolding has enveloped all sides of the historic 1920s structure and work crews for several firms can be seen daily tearing out old grout, replacing it with fresh grout, replacing most or all of the roof, repairing cracked walls and damaged parapets and performing similar work six days a week. Views above show the plastic-shrouded front entrance, facing Lake Road in downtown Congers and plastic, scaffolding and cranes hard at work on the cracked rear wall of the large multi-purpose room (cafeteria, gymnasium and auditorium) on the south-facing rear of the school. The building was originally constructed as Congers High School, the only secondary school in all of Clarkstown for a century, when it was built to replace an adjacent wooden high school from the 1880s.
The wooden school then became Congers Elementary School, and remained in place until the “new” Clarkstown High School North was built in New City in the 1950s. It was then demolished, and the adjacent brick high school became Congers Elementary School, which it had remained until last year. Now, it’s anyone’s guess what happens to the stately old structure, even after its multi-million dollar reconstruction gets completed this summer.