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LOCKPORT – The Lockport City School District has its eyes on Kibler Park, proposing that the city donate the green space behind Roy B. Kelley Elementary School to the district.
Superintendent Michelle T. Bradley said Thursday that the school district could use the park in some way to reduce traffic congestion around the school, which is to be enlarged both in size and enrollment next year.
Mayor Michael W. Tucker said after Wednesday’s Common Council work session, “As we reduce our staff, it makes it harder to maintain our stuff, so if the school district wants to take it over, let them take it over.”
But he acknowledged, “We don’t know what the plan is … I don’t think they know themselves.”
Kibler Park, which covers 19 acres according to the city’s online assessment map, also has an adjoining 17-acre field. The main park fronts on Elmwood Avenue but extends south to the school property line, and also has a small piece of frontage on East High Street, east of the school.
“Right now, the focus is on solving the traffic congestion,” Bradley said when asked why the school district wants the whole park.
She said there had been no talk of placing a sports complex there. The park already has a ball diamond and soccer field.
One traffic possibility is a driveway through the park, aldermen said Wednesday.
Alderman Kenneth M. Genewick, R-5th Ward, said he attended a meeting of neighborhood residents Tuesday. They voiced concerns about the loss of the only large park in the eastern end of the city and the possibility that development by the school district could bring more noise, disorderly youths and drainage problems.
Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said state legislation would be needed to allow the city to give up any park land.
Tucker said, “Once they decide what they want to do there, they have to inform the residents on Park Lane Circle and Elmwood and Reed and High [streets].”
Bradley said congestion on East High Street around Kelley at the beginning and end of the school day needs to be addressed soon.
“We do anticipate more students, more parents, with the consolidation of Washington Hunt [Elementary School], which is going to close at the end of the 2012-13 school year,” Bradley said.
Because of that closure, enrollment at Kelley is expected to jump from last year’s 320 students to more than 500 in 2013-14.
In 2011, district voters approved a $5.8 million expansion at Kelley, including construction of eight new classrooms, while two existing ones will be used to expand the school’s library. Construction starts this fall, Bradley said.
The Hunt closure is the fourth elementary school shutdown in recent years in Lockport, which once had eight such schools.
Also, Emmet Belknap Middle School will be called Emmet Belknap Intermediate School, and will host all the district’s fifth- and sixth-grade students. North Park Middle School will be renamed North Park Junior High School and will have all of Lockport’s seventh- and eighth-graders.
“It’s all in response to declining enrollment and the financial crisis facing the district,” Bradley said.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com