Alton B. Parker Elementary School was named after a Cortland native. Parker was born in Cortland, New York, in 1852 and served as a teacher, a lawyer and a judge. In 1904, Mr. Parker received the Democratic Party’s nomination to run for the United States President. Alton B. Parker lost the election to Theodore Roosevelt. The Cortland community is proud to be connected to this local historical figure.
The school was completed in 1928, and opened its doors to students. The construction of Alton B. Parker Elementary School was not without controversy. The decision was made to abandon the last wood structured school in the District, the Schermerhorn School, in favor of a more modern school. Built in 1881, the Schermerhorn School was considered to be a fire hazard due to the wooden structure and was therefore condemned. After 55 years of use, the Schermerhorn School was quickly becoming obsolete.
The construction of Alton B. Parker School was started around the same time as Randall Elementary School. Both were opened in 1928 and considered modern schools of the time. Quickly, the Cortland population expanded, and by 1951 it was evident that the school needed more room. An addition was built in 1951 that allowed for more space and a separate cafeteria. In September of 1960, Alton B. Parker Elementary School welcomed 500 students and it was noted that the classrooms were extremely full. In 1983, additional first grade and Kindergarten classrooms were added to accommodate again a growing population of students.
In 1986, foundational issues were noted and the school underwent renovations. The main cause was that the cafeteria addition was built on ash and therefore did not have a solid foundation. Cracks were evident in the exterior and interior of the building. In 2010, Alton B. Parker Elementary School was designated as a National Blue Ribbon School. An important part of the U.S. Department of Education, the National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes outstanding public and non-public schools. The program identifies several hundred outstanding schools annually based on school excellence in data, turn around stories, and school who have demonstrated closing achievement gaps in identified subgroups. In identifying several hundred outstanding schools annually, the program celebrates school excellence, turn around stories, and closing subgroup achievement gaps.
Since the first students walked through the doors in 1928, Alton B. Parker Elementary School has served the Cortland community. With decreasing enrollment, fiscal concerns, and a number of other reasons, the decision was made in 2017 by the Board of Education to close Parker Elementary School. It is important to remember the unique history the school and its special connection to the Cortland community.