Tonawanda News

April 3, 2014

WALLACE: Time will tell about consolidation

By Amy Wallace
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — The Ken-Ton school board voted this week to close two elementary schools and one middle school in the district in an effort to save money. The closings were one of several options presented to parents and the board based on the findings of a consolidation report and two years of studies and meetings.

Under Option I, the plan the board voted for, Alexander Hamilton and Theodore Roosevelt elementary schools will close along with Kenmore Middle School, which would be converted into administrative offices.

Option I will also change the grade levels for each program. High schools will now run grades eight through 12, middle schools are grades five through seven and elementary schools are pre-K through fourth grade.

The plan supposedly will decrease the chances of additional school closings over the next five to 10 years.

The board says the plan will be implemented in the 2016-2017 school year and is said to save the district about $5 million in the first year.

As a parent, I am not really sure how the board’s decision will play out over the long term.

Both of my children attend school in the Ken-Ton district. My youngest is in third grade at Hoover Elementary and my oldest is in seventh grade at Kenmore Middle School.

I understand the financial constraints school districts in New York state are under with cuts to state aid. I also realize that with dwindling enrollment, due to many factors including the “brain drain” and an aging population, it doesn’t make sense to have half-empty school buildings.

But, I also see how some parents feel that this may be upsetting to the kids who have to move schools and leave teachers and friends they have known for years. 

Personally, my son will be one of the last classes to attend Kenmore Middle School. We weren’t sure in the beginning how we felt about him attending Kenmore Middle. 

Because of where we live, most of my son’s friends went to Hoover Middle while only he and a couple of kids he knew went to Kenmore Middle. 

It was kind of like starting over for him even though he had attended school in the district since pre-K. But to our surprise, he adjusted very well and has made a lot of new friends.

I went to school in a small town in Genesee County called LeRoy. We had one elementary school and one high school, no separate middle school. 

The elementary school served grades K to sixth grade and the high school served grades seven to 12. 

As a seventh-grader, I was moved to the high school in the same building as 10th, 11th and 12th graders. Even though most of my classes were on the first and second floor of the building with other seventh- and eighth-graders, it was still overwhelming. 

The seventh and eighth grade students were together for gym and lunch. We didn’t mix much with the older grades in the first couple years, which was helpful. 

I am not sure how the Ken-Ton district will handle having eighth-graders going to the high school buildings and how much of a transition that will be for the students. 

I worry about the planned redistricting down the road that may change where my youngest son will go to school. I also am concerned about the loss of teachers and staff through consolidation and am hoping as many teachers can be relocated to different schools as possible.

Changes like these can be upsetting and unsettling for parents and children, but I do hope that what the board stated is true and that these changes will prevent future closings for at least five to 10 years. 

This process has been going on for almost two years now with committees being formed to study different consolidation scenarios and residents being allowed to vote on which options they liked best. 

I laud the school district for taking its time with the consolidation and giving the opportunity for parent and resident input at almost every juncture of the process. 

No one can tell at this point if the consolidation will be a success but I do feel that the district did make every effort to include the community in the decision-making process.

Change is never easy but hopefully enough forethought has gone into the consolidation plan so that this will be the only change the district faces for many years to come.

Amy Wallace is the city editor of the Tonawanda News. Contact her at amy.wallace@tonawanda-news.com.

Amy Wallace is the city editor of the Tonawanda News. Contact her at amy.wallace@tonawanda-news.com.