Onchiota School, undated.
Courtesy of Phil Fitzgerald
The Onchiota School was originally a one-room school on Roakdale Road in Onchiota. In 1959 it was divided in two and accommodated the students of the newly-closed Merrillsville School.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, May 8, 1961

Chairman Resigns From Post On Onchiota School Board

What was expected to be a routine annual budget meeting of School District 3, Franklin Township resulted in a stormy session on whether or not to keep the Onchiota School open and the resignation of Frank B. Knight, chairman of the board of trustees.

About a dozen persons attended the meeting held last week at the Onchiota School.

In what was evidently a surprise announcement, H. C Tormey, who has supplied the school with water from a pond on his property, told the trustees he could no longer do so. As a result the group voted a capital outlay of $500 to put in a water system including a well and pump.

From this point, according to several people who attended, discussion became heated.

Sometime during the evening, Mr. Knight said the people in the district had evidently lost confidence in him and he resigned. His letter of resignation was delivered the following morning.

Mr. Knight's resignation was preceded by a motion from the floor that the local school be closed and all pupils in the district sent to Saranac Lake. Someone pointed out that this was a major issue and could not be voted on or discussed at the meeting because it had not been included in the agenda or announced beforehand. However, the discussion did continue and included references to centralization and the board's right to hire a teacher before the annual meeting.

According to rumors that are circulating, the land on which the school is situated would revert to the original owners, if the school were closed. Also, according to rumor, Mr. Tormey is the original owner.

The Enterprise called Maurice Finnegan, Franklin County superintendent of schools, to check on this point but he said he did not know the answer, and in his opinion, it would take a lawyer quite a long time to go back through county school records and to make certain of the facts. He did say that there are school districts where land for a school building has been donated by an individual and there is such a reversion in the contract.

Since it was felt the school could not be voted closed or continued at this meeting, the $29,000 budget was accepted, although only after explanation of each item was called for and comparisons made with budgets of previous years. A special meeting to discuss the proposed closing will be called, according to remaining board members. It will also be necessary to have an election to vote for a successor to Mr Knight.

Before Mr. Knight's resignation, he announced the petitions to bring vote were at the meeting and could be signed. [sic] It could not be learned how many, if anyone, signed the petitions....

The Merrillsville School in the District was closed in 1959 and the one-room Onchiota School was divided by a partition to make two rooms. At present, there are two rooms and two teachers in the six-grade school.

Adirondack Daily Enterprise, May 10, 1961

Dear Sir:

In reference to your article of May 8, my feelings are that I have failed my friends and neighbors somewhere when they would even think that my motive in asking them to consider closing our school is that I would be looking to gain a sixty year old building. I do think that two teachers are not needed in a school which has from twelve to sixteen students in it. When they divide those, I believe the classes are too small, that there will be some children when they have to go into a larger school with so many more children around that will not adjust well. For the money that is spent on our small school a year, are we really giving these children what they could have in either a consolidated school district or centralized school district, with new schools? I don't believe we are.

The water which our district has been using, as I told them at the meeting, is coming out of a pond which the State Conservation Department is planning on reclaiming this fall.

I don't want to drink that water so I don't believe the children of my district should. I never have complained to our board of trustees. I have felt and feel that they have done a good job for a thankless one. But I do believe in saying what's on my mind at our small school meetings.

I asked them to consider my idea for a year, not close the school at the present meeting.

I stand behind our trustees 100 per cent in what they have done and will do in the future.

H.C. Tormey

External  link: