Tonawanda News

October 5, 2013

The end 
of an era?

By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — The Ken-Ton School District may have only one high school for the first time in 54 years under the most recent consolidation option proposed by the board.

Under the scenario, which was proposed Monday night, one of the buildings, either Kenmore East or West, would house the high school students, while the middle school students would report to the other school.

Kenmore Middle and two or more elementary schools would close. The younger students would move into the empty space in the Franklin and Hoover complexes, Board President Bob Dana said.

“Since the discussions began, people have expressed concerns about one high school, so we moved away from it,” he said. “But recently, residents have asked why we aren’t considering it ... so we figured we should do our due diligence. It is a scenario that should probably be discussed.”

Although having one high school would do away with the historic rivalry between the two camps, Dana said that the option would not necessarily diminish extracurricular activities, such as sports and music. 

“We could expand one high school athletic program to give opportunities to students who may not have the athletic skills to participate at the varsity level,” Dana said. “And where is it etched in stone that we can only have one musical every year?”

The district was motivated to consider the option after receiving a new pilot program that helps districts explore such options free of charge, Dana said. 

The other scenarios were proposed by the board during the summer. All the possibilities aim to save money, even out class sizes and sustain the district in light of decreasing enrollment and declining state aid.

The second option currently being considered involves the closing of Kenmore Middle School and Holmes Elementary. High school students would report to Kenmore East and Kenmore West, while middle school students would go to Franklin and Hoover middle schools. Pre-K through grade five would be served at Franklin, Hamilton, Hoover, Lindbergh and Roosevelt elementary schools.

Superintendent Mark Mondanaro said he was asked to look at the plan with a broad perspective and stay open to closing different schools than the ones initially proposed.

The third option would use both Kenmore West and Kenmore East as a junior high school for grades 7 through 12. Students up to grade six would report to the Hoover and Franklin complexes.

Mondanaro said he was also asked to look at having two other themed elementary schools as well under that option.

The fourth option includes grouping schools by grade level, with 8 through 12 reporting to the two high schools, Kindergarten through grade 4 at a handful of elementary schools and grades 5 through 7 at the Hoover and Franklin complexes.

Mondanaro is also exploring the possibility of closing the district’s properties that are not used for full-time education, including the administrative building and Phillip Sheridan on Elmwood Avenue.

Under the district’s schedule for the consolidation plan, the fall will be used for the continuation of an analysis phase — and the public will be updated at regular board meetings, including one set for Tuesday.

A preliminary analysis report will be shared in late 2013, and the final report on the options will be shared in January 2014. The board is then set to consider voting on one of the options in February 2014.

If a plan is approved, the option will take effect in the 2014-2015 or 2015-2016 academic year.

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