February 28, 2014

From Katonah to Lewisboro, and back again

If Katonah-Lewisboro’s plans proceed, Lewisboro Elementary School could go the way of the one-room schoolhouse. The school’s closing is scheduled for the end of summer, with students to be redistricted to Meadow Pond Elementary School in South Salem and Increase Miller in Goldens Bridge. Some Increase Miller students could be transferred to KES.

Geography is perhaps the outstanding characteristic of Katonah-Lewisboro: vast, uneven and fragmented, divided by I-684 in Katonah and linked by two-lane county roads, Route 35 and Route 121. Its boundaries stretch from the Connecticut border in the east to Katonah in the west, more than 13 miles from end to end. Parts of Pound Ridge are also included in the district.

Once upon a time, local education in northeastern Westchester was provided by “leftover funds” from the dog tax and the poor tax. In 1840, a resident named John Lewis donated $10,000 to the town for the support of the town’s schools. In return, he asked that the town be named after him.

By 1859, the region was served by 12 school districts, in what today are Katonah, Somers, North Salem and Lewisboro. The districts served 442 pupils, sharing a budget of $707.50 among them.

According to “A History of the Town of Lewisboro,” published by the Lewisboro History Book Committee in 1981, the idea of centralization was first proposed in 1919 by the Lewisboro Association, a group of citizens whose object was “to promote and maintain the welfare of the neighborhood and do all things incidental thereto.” The days of the one-room schoolhouse, when students walked or rode horses to school, were fast coming to an end.

The idea was kicked around for a couple of decades, until 1939, when five of the districts merged. The current Lewisboro Elementary School was built that year, at a cost of $150,000. Back then students could watch cows from Schaub’s Farm wandering outside the building. The school contained grades one through eight; first and second grades were combined. Lewisboro students attended high school in New Canaan, Ridgefield or Katonah. Kindergarten didn’t arrive until 1945.

With rising enrollment from the baby boom, in 1952 area voters endorsed a radical new plan: the creation of two school districts, one for Katonah and Lewisboro, the other to include Bedford, Pound Ridge and Mount Kisco.

Voters of the newly formed Katonah-Lewisboro Union Free School District promptly approved a new high school building plan on 110 acres in Cross River, purchased for $25,000, in 1953. John Jay High School opened for classes in Cross River in 1956, and the middle school opened a decade later, essentially creating the district we know today.

The issues from back then are still relevant today: traffic, demographics and consolidation.

In a filing with the state education commissioner delivered this week, petitioners sought to halt the closure of LES, citing the board of education’s failure to investigate the “significant traffic and safety concerns” for buses on Route 35. The petition also addresses demographic patterns in Lewisboro, including historic enrollment trends and housing sales.

Officials say that Lewisboro Elementary School may get a second chance in years to come. But it’s hard to imagine turning back the clock, especially at a time of diminishing enrollment and when consolidation and shared services are the watchwords of good government.

In months to come, we’ll be watching the transition team as it moves forward and keeping an eye on the response from the education commissioner in Albany. In the meantime, Katonah-Lewisboro families will once again be asked to adapt to what may seem like an unnatural change, but may, in fact, be our road forward.


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The official newspaper of the towns of Bedford and Pound Ridge, New York

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NEWSSTAND LOCATIONS

Pound Ridge/Scotts Corners

  1. Scotts Corner Market – Trinity Corners Shopping Center;  55 Westchester Avenue

  2. Pound Ridge Sunoco — 66 Westchester Avenue    

  3. Sam Parker Country Market — 257 Westchester Avenue    


Bedford Village

  1. Bedford Rexall Pharmacy — Hunting Ridge Mall; 424 Old Post Road  

  2. Village Green Deli — Village Green; Routes 22 and 172    

  3. Bedford Shell — Routes 22 and 172 (at blinking light); 848 So. Bedford Road

  4. Village Service Center —193 Pound Ridge Road (at Long Ridge Road intersection)    


Bedford Hills

  1. Bedford Hills Deli – 7 Babbitt Road    

  2. Bueti’s Deli – 526 Bedford Road (Route 117)


Katonah

  1. NoKA Joe’s – 25 Katonah Avenue    

  2. Steger’s Paper Mill – 89 Katonah Avenue    

  3. Katonah Pharmacy – Katonah Shopping Center; 294 Katonah Avenue   

  4. Bagel Shoppe – Katonah Shopping Center; 280 Katonah Avenue    

  5. Katonah Sunoco – 105 Bedford Road


Mount Kisco

  1. Teamo/Mt. Kisco News – 239 Main Street    


Cross River

  1. Bagel Boys Café – Cross River Shopping Center; Routes 121 and 35    

  2. Cross River Shell Station – Route 35    

  3. Cameron’s Deli –  890 Route 35    

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