Chester school district releases Maple Avenue Community Survey results

Chester. The majority of respondents suggested demolishing the building.

| 22 Nov 2023 | 02:23

The results of the Maple Avenue Community Survey were presented at the Chester Union Free School District Board of Education meeting on November 21.

The survey, conducted through ThoughtExchange, asked three questions and then allowed people to post their “thoughts,” or comments and ideas for all participants to see, much like social media platforms. The participants were then allowed to rate each other’s thoughts. In total, there were 389 participants who provided 342 thoughts and 6,036 ratings of those thoughts.

The school district and Board of Education are involving the community in multiple ways to determine the best solution for the Maple Avenue building. Once a solution is determined, a resolution will be drafted and placed before voters for a public referendum.

The Community Survey, Superintendent Catherine O’Hara said, was just one step in the process of providing opportunities for input from the community. There will be a Community Forum at 7 p.m. on November 29 in the Chester Academy Auditorium where Chester residents can provide further input.

On the Community Survey, the first question was: “Based on the current associated costs and future implications, which option would you recommend we choose?” The District provided three options along with accompanying costs. The options do not include the gym and athletic fields, which are currently in use and would remain intact for future use. The response percentages were:

- Building remains vacant (cost $25,000 annually) – 18%

- Listed for sale (cost estimate $25,000-$35,000) – 30%

- Demolition of building (cost estimate $3 million-$5 million) – 52%

The second question and percentage of responses (multiple category responses were allowed) was: “What is your connection to the Chester Union Free School District?”

- Parent of current CUFSD student – 49%

- Staff/Faculty – 12%

- Student – 5%

- Community member – 41%

- Other – 11% (participants who chose “Other” identified themselves as either an alumni, graduate, resident, homeowner or taxpayer)

Results of the full ThoughtExchange survey may be found by visiting the following website:

After the two questions, participants had the opportunity to respond to a third prompt that asked, “What other considerations do you feel should be included as it relates to the Maple Avenue building?”

According to the school district, respondents suggested converting the building into a community center or some other public use for the community, or preserving the building or parts of the building because of its history. Respondents also reportedly expressed concern regarding the future of the building and land – as well as zoning – if it were to be sold.

Superintendent O’Hara also provided some clarifications, based on responses from the survey. First off, she explained that the district cannot repurpose the building for a community center or non-school-related use, as such a conversion “would not be eligible for state aid from the New York State Education Department and not a feasible option for the district.” However, a gift of deed (transferring ownership of the property) to a local municipality would achieve this goal. The district, however, stated that no such interest has been raised by the local municipalities at this time.

O’Hara said if the district, board, and the community decide to sell the building, the district is legally required to act with fiduciary responsibility to obtain the best possible price (i.e., sell to the highest bidder). She also said that if the district, the board, and the community choose to demolish the building, elements of the building’s historical design would be saved and incorporated for future use. One consideration, she said, could be a park or greenspace – A Clocktower Park – that includes restored elements of the original building. There are no formal designs for such a plan. This is just in the concept stage.

Visit the district website dedicated to this process at If anyone has a question, email the district at The district will not be able to answer questions individually but will provide answers in an FAQ on its website.