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Watertown school board holds the line on boundary exception request

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Leslie A. Dias now has until Jan. 1 to pay tuition to the Watertown City School District or put her daughter on a bus to a new school.

In October, Mrs. Dias moved into the Creek Wood Apartments on the north side of Watertown, a housing development that straddles the boundary between the Watertown and General Brown school districts.

Mrs. Dias said that she knew about the line but that no one advised her that her new apartment was on the General Brown side.

The address change means Mrs. Dias no longer will be able to walk her daughter, third-grader Allyson G. Ivey, two blocks to North Elementary School but instead will have to send her on a school bus to Brownville Elementary School, more than 5 miles away.

If she keeps Allyson at North Elementary, she will have to pay $2,853 a year in tuition.

Board of Education members Tuesday night directed district Superintendent Terry N. Fralick to enforce the district’s boundary but granted Mrs. Dias a one-month reprieve to sort out the situation.

She previously was directed to make a $407.65 monthly payment this past Monday.

Moving to an apartment in the Creek Wood development on the Watertown side could allow Mrs. Dias to keep her daughter in the city school, though there reportedly are no apartments available.

“I’m not sending her to General Brown. I don’t care if I have to change her address,” Mrs. Dias said after the board reached a decision.

She has written to Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and state Sen. Patricia A. Ritchie, R-Heuvelton, about the matter and came to the meeting with a copy of a reply she received from the governor, assuring her that the governor’s office would be following through with an answer.

Mrs. Dias also said she spoke with her daughter’s teacher, who said Allyson was becoming withdrawn during class.

Board members said they were afraid that making an exception in Mrs. Dias’s case would set a dangerous precedent.

“We’re extending the enrollment until January 1. After that, the parent will be required to pay tuition or enroll her daughter in General Brown,” Mr. Fralick said after the meeting.

Both school districts raised concerns about the construction of the apartment complex on top of the boundary when the development was first proposed.

They negotiated to keep the boundary intact to preserve access to state aid, according to Jack J. Boak Jr., superintendent of the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

The board also voted to sell property at 376 Butterfield Ave. for $221,000 to MSP Realty LLC, Watertown.

The property was the site of the former district office.

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