By Allison Collins
OTEGO – About 20 people, including several Unatego Board of Education members, gathered last Friday evening at the Otego Fire Hall for an informational meeting with Kevin Pendergast, headmaster of the Kildonan School.
In collaboration with the Leatherstocking Dyslexia Center located on SUNY Oneonta’s campus, the Amenia-based private nonprofit school for students with dyslexia is one of four organizations seeking to purchase the Otego Elementary building.
With a $100,000 bid, Kildonan’s represents the lowest of the three disclosed proposal prices. Two Plus Four, the same firm behind the purchase and reconfiguration of Sidney’s Civic Center, offered $253,693 to turn the building into senior housing, while the Endicott-based AgZeit vertical-farming outfit proposed $300,000 for the site. The third proposal from LPP Management, for mixed-use facilities, did not include a proposal amount.
Pendergast said the economic impact on district residents would likely be negligible, as the $39,000 annual price tag for a Kildonan day education is comparable to the roughly $40,000 spent each year by taxpayers per individual public school student requiring special education services.
“You’re already spending the money,” he said, noting that the taxpayer contribution under the Kildonan Leatherstocking proposal would be offset by an estimated $10,000 in reimbursement from the state.
Pendergast also acknowledged that the school’s proposal price is “much lower than the other bidders’,” but speculated that the payoff to the community would, ultimately, be greater.
“In two to three years,” he said, “most Kildonan Leatherstocking students would be able to return to their regular schools as mainstream, non-sped kids at an annual taxpayer cost of $15,000.”
Pendergast, who described all the proposals as “admirable” and “offering something inspirational and meaningful to the community,” emphasized Kildonan’s proven longevity.
“Kildonan is committed to this idea, to winning this bid and to being here forever,” he said. “The building is beautiful and it’s a perfect setup for us to get in there and start working right away.” Kildonan’s proposal includes $75,000 budgeted for minor improvements and renovations to the building.