Tonawanda News

May 10, 2013

Residents petition against school closings

By Jessica Bagley jessica.bagley@tonawanda-news.com
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — Residents have taken their protest of the Ken-Ton School District’s consolidation plans online with a petition on change.org. 

“We, the undersigned concerned residents of the Village of Kenmore and the Town of Tonawanda, are writing you today to urge you to consider rejecting consolidation scenarios which close any public school in the Kenmore Tonawanda Union Free School District,” the petition states.

The appeal comes after the district received eight consolidation options from its consultant, the SES Study Team, which was charged with creating viable plans for the 2014-2015 academic year that would save money. 

“The district, like many in New York state has had to reduce expenditures for staff, programs, and general operations to deal with the recession of 2008 and its continued fallout for the foreseeable future for public school districts,” the study said. 

The options vary extensively and range from keeping all of the schools open to closing numerous schools and significantly changing the configuration of the district.

Under the most drastic plan, five schools would close — resulting in savings of $1,890,681.

But the 244 supporters that have signed the online petition so far don’t support any closings. 

“Given the small amount of savings of each scenario (relative to the nearly $150 Million dollar budget proposed for the 2013-2014 school year), we believe the community’s traditional foundation in small, local schools should be preserved,” the petition, which is addressed to the board of education, states. 

Many of the residents who signed the petition said they valued the district’s current setup. 

“Young families with kids do still want to live in Ken-Ton,” Julie Terry, of Kenmore, said. “But they simply will not stay if the schools become unpleasant super-sized mega-schools and we are blighted with vacant school buildings all over town.”

Others said they didn’t want to lose their neighborhood schools.

“When we chose our Kenmore home six years ago one of the many reasons was that it was a neighborhood. One where my children could walk to school, make friends who lived close by and went to the same school, walk into a village,” Samara Hutcheson, of Kenmore, said. “Closing neighborhood schools changes the entire neighborhood feeling of our close-knit village.”

But school officials have said that the district’s current financial situation is worsening — as state aid and enrollment are both likely to decline in the coming years. 

And on Wednesday, Board President Bob Dana said that it’s not all about money, and that a consolidation plan would also attempt to preserve student programs that may be at risk in future years.

The district is currently in the process of electing a focus group, which will review the options and forward a recommendation on to the Board of Education. Then, the fate of the schools will lie in its hands. 

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter at @JessicaLBagley

Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter at @JessicaLBagley