The Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School Board on Tuesday asked its superintendent to look in detail at three school consolidation scenarios.
One option – known as “Scenario G” in a consultant’s report – would close a middle school and an elementary school. That scenario was the preferred choice by a group of community stakeholders that met in June. The other two scenarios were devised by board members.
They include a more drastic approach proposed by board member Jeff Rickan. His scenario would have grades K-4 attend four or five elementary schools, grades 5-7 attend Hoover and Franklin Middle schools and grades 8-12 attend Kenmore East and West High schools.
“My concern is we’re not going to go far enough,” he said. “If we keep putting Band-Aids on Band-Aids, we’re never going to get there.”
The board has said it hopes to achieve cost savings and equalize class sizes by consolidating.
Another radical restructuring, proposed by board member Judy Frank, would use the Hoover and Franklin complexes for students up to grade 6 and send grades 7-12 to the two high schools. She suggested turning two closed buildings into elementary magnet schools for performing arts or international baccalaureate programs.
The board, in 90 minutes of discussion at the work session, seemed to be in agreement that it wants to keep its two high schools open for the time being and possibly add grade levels to bolster their enrollment.
“The question then becomes what’s the configuration with the elementary and the middle schools,” board president Bob Dana said after the meeting. “That seems to be what’s up in the air and obviously which buildings we’re going to use.”
The specifics of the three scenarios are still hazy. In Scenario G as presented in the report, for example, Kenmore Middle and Holmes Elementary schools would close. But the board talked about keeping Holmes open and possibly closing a different elementary school.
Rickan and board member Todd Potter Jr. both brought up the issue of selling district-owned buildings not used for instruction before closing schools, which Superintendent Mark P. Mondanaro was asked in June to investigate.
Peter Stuhlmiller, president of the Kenmore Teachers Association, was in the audience of about 25 people and said he was glad the district is looking into selling non-instructional buildings such as the administration and buildings and grounds properties on Colvin Boulevard and the Philip Sheridan Building on Elmwood Avenue, where Tuesday’s meeting was held.
“I think it’s really important that before we close a number of instructional buildings that we’ve turned over every stone we can to look for savings so that we don’t directly impact kids,” he said.
The district would be eligible for state financial aid to help alleviate the cost of moving displaced departments and employees, he said.
But Dana said he was “disappointed” in the early appraisals he’s seen. The cost of moving functions such as the district’s information technology hub would be “astronomical,” he said, and savings achieved “would not solve our financial problems by any stretch of the imagination.”