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Funding remains uncertain for renovation of Binghamton elementary school

Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School in Binghamton
Megan Zerez
Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School serves Binghamton's north side neighborhood. A study commissioned by the district in 2021 said the building is one of several in the district requiring extensive repairs, including asbestos abatement.

The fate of one of Binghamton's most economically disadvantaged elementary schools remains uncertain after an initial bid for state funding fell through last week.

School district leaders voted last November to try to renovate Theodore Roosevelt Elementary instead of permanently shuttering the school as initially suggested.

The estimated cost of the repairs have varied, but a recent statement from the district said the bill could come to at least $53 million.

District leaders had pushed for an amendment to the New York state budget that would allow the school district early access to $28 million of its projected state funding (local taxpayers would be responsible for the remaining $25 million).

But the amendment didn't make it into the final budget.

Binghamton Superintendent Tonia Thompson said the district will try again. Thompson said the district is working with state lawmakers to pass the amendment as a standalone bill.

There's less than a month left in the current legislative session, so the new bill likely won’t be introduced until lawmakers return to Albany next January.

Thompson said they’ll be ready to advocate for the bill, when it is introduced.

"We will reach out to the community and ask for more letter writing and phone calls and advocacy so the governor sees the importance of this for our community," Thompson said at a school board meeting this week.

If the new bill doesn't pass, school board members could reconsider their pledge to renovate the school.

A statement from a district spokesperson said the total cost of the project could increase by 50% if Binghamton opts to go through the traditional pathway for large projects — though it's likely the state would foot a larger percentage of the bill in that scenario.

A district-commissioned study in 2021 suggested Binghamton permanently close one of its seven elementary schools, citing declining enrollment and mounting repair costs.

The report identified several of the city's elementary schools as potential candidates, but said Roosevelt Elementary would require the most extensive repairs.

State data shows 84 percent of students at Roosevelt Elementary are financially disadvantaged — more than nearly all other elementary schools in the tri-cities area.

Parents and other advocates said the school provides important community resources to residents of Binghamton's north side, which has limited access to child care, pediatric health care and grocery stores.

If Roosevelt closes — whether temporarily or permanently — students there would be bussed to one of several other elementary schools in the district.