State to turn Cleveland Elementary into DEC Academy

CLEVELAND, N.Y. — Five years after shutting down, Cleveland Elementary School is set to reopen its doors as a training academy for Department of Environmental Conservation forest rangers and police officers.

State officials announced the move on Wednesday, The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) will pay $199,000 to the Central Square School District for the 53,700-square foot facility.

“Its central New York location matches perfectly with the on-water, wilderness, and mountainous terrain our divisions and programs require for their training, and we were thrilled to work with the village of Cleveland to revitalize this amazing facility,” said DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos.

Located near Oneida Lake, the former Cleveland Elementary School also features 13 acres of athletic fields, 23 classrooms, a large gymnasium and a commercial quality kitchen and a  cafeteria area, according to agency officials.

The proposed training academy would neighbor the current instructional facility in Pulaski, which according to DEC officials is set to graduate 30 environmental conservation police officers and 14 forest ranger recruits on Dec. 6.

"This incredible property served as the epicenter for education for generations of central New York children and now will be reborn to educate and train the next generation of environmental protectors,” Seggos said.

The DEC academy will run for 28 weeks and cover environmental conservation law, criminal procedure, vehicle and traffic laws, physical conditioning, firearms training, wildlife identification, emergency vehicle operations, search and rescue missions, land navigation, boating, and wildfire suppression, according to officials.

Assemblyman Will Barclay, R-Pulaski called the location for the new academy “ideal” and a “perfect use” for the vacant building.

“In my experience, environmental conservation police officers and forest rangers are consummate professionals and that is in part due to the training they receive at the DEC’s academies,” Barclay said in a release. “With the opening of the new site, I'm optimistic that this great tradition continues.”

The school shut down in 2014 to “ensure educational and fiscal responsibilities to current and future students,” district leaders said at the time. Students from Cleveland were transferred to Constantia’s Aura A. Cole Elementary School.

Central Square Central School District Board of Education President Andrew Martin said the sale of the facility will infuse financial flexibility into the district.

“The sale allows the board to focus on financial and educational goals to bring the highest possible educational experience to our students, while maintaining fiscal integrity for our taxpayers,” Martin said.

Reflecting on the loss of the elementary school and the future of the building, village of Cleveland Mayor Laureen Tackman said the locality anticipates a fruitful relationship with the DEC for years to come.

“We are very excited to have our school take this next step in its journey and we will be there every step of the way,” Tackman said. “We are anticipating this step as one of many for Cleveland and our beautiful (Oneida Lake) north shore toward a more vibrant and economically sound community.”

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