Tonawanda News

June 7, 2013

Ken-Ton school closings debated

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

Tonawanda News — TOWN OF TONAWANDA — The Ken-Ton Parent Association has completed a summary of residents’ responses regarding the district’s eight consolidation options. 

“We have spent the last few weeks compiling questions and concerns that residents have over the impending consolidation project,” Jill O’Malley, of director of the KTPA, said. “We also believe that much of this will be discussed in upcoming meetings, however, many individuals cannot make these meetings and wanted their points represented.”

Last year, the district hired a consultant, the SES Study Team, to develop plans that would result in cost savings and better use of the district’s many buildings. The team delivered its final report in April, and the options range from using all of the current facilities to closing numerous schools and significantly changing the configuration of the district. Since then, the district has received a great deal of feedback from concerned residents. 

The KTPA included responses from parents, business owners, government and municipal agents and district employees. The report states that the most common suggestion was to wait to make a decision until at least one year after the closing of Jefferson Elementary. 

“This would allow the district to assess the true cost savings associated with closing Jefferson, taking into consideration unexpected pros and cons,” the report states. 

Other general concerns include questions about how exactly the cost savings will be applied and if those savings would result in a tax cut for residents. 

Parents also expressed worries about how children who receive special education will deal with adapting to a new school every few years and how the options will affect schools’ specific programs, such as Roosevelt’s Kiwanis Kids. 

Others suggested closing the administration building, a move that wasn’t evaluated as part of the consolidation study. 

“Nineteen of 28 Erie County districts house administrative services within school buildings,” the report states. “Although there would be a cost associated with moving the administration, many believe this should be evaluated.” 

Respondents also provided feedback on individual proposed scenarios. The report states that many objected to scenario H, which would result in $2,131,811 of savings from cuts in staffing, utilities, building supplies and maintenance.

Under that option, pre-Kindergarten and Kindergarten classes would be held at Hamilton and Lindbergh. Grades 1, 2 and 3 would report to Franklin Elementary, grades 4, 5 and 6 would report to the Hoover campus, grades 7, 8 and 9 would be served at what is now Kenmore East High School, and grades 10, 11 and 12 would take place at Kenmore West. In essence, it would merge the district’s two high schools — each with a distinctive identity that share a long-running athletic rivalry — into one.

“Losing one of the high schools was not well supported by any of the respondents,” the KTPA’s document states.

Residents also expressed concern about scenarios D and F, which would result in grade 7 being housed in its own building. Questions were raised about how the configuration would ready students for eighth grade and high school.

At the end of the report, the KTPA thanked the district for including the community in the process.

“In the end, whatever decision is made, we anticipate it will be a solution which takes into account the unique needs of the Ken-Ton community,” the report states. 

The process will continue Saturday, when a focus group will meet and rank the options. In late June, the community will receive the final SES study which will include the focus group summary. 

The board will hold a special meeting July 23 to meet with the focus group and go over the body’s recommendation. On July 25, the district will hold a board work session to go over each option in detail. 

The analysis process will continue into the fall of 2013, and in late 2013, a preliminary analysis report will be issued. The final document will be released in January.

In February 2014, the board will vote on whether to adopt one of the plans. 

“Depending on which scenario is voted on to initiate, if any, it is possible that the plan would not be effective until the 2015-2016 school year,” the district’s website states.

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