Tonawanda city school officials are moving ahead with their plan to form a new community task force that will examine the future of the district in light of continuing declines in enrollment.
According to enrollment figures, Tonawanda had about 2,400 students in 2000, but that number dropped to just over 1,800 last year. The district is estimating enrollment will continue to decline to about 1,600 in 2020.
"The question is, what are we going to do as a district?" Superintendent Whitney Vantine said during a Board of Education meeting last week.
The district has made moves to downsize and reconfigure in the past decade, closing Highland Elementary School in 2009 and later selling both that building and the former administrative offices on Broad Street. However, there might be room for an even smaller footprint, such as selling the Central School building that hasn't been an active instructional facility for Tonawanda for more than a decade.
The building is used for equipment storage and some community organizations such as the Historical Society of the Tonawandas.
Vantine said the district would soon inform the city that the Central building is no longer available for functions.
An issue that may hold up the task force is the transfer of leadership. Vantine announced he will retire Oct. 17, and the board just began the process of finding a new superintendent. Some officials acknowledged bringing in a new administrator into a murky future could be difficult.
"What if there's not a superintendent?" asked board member Sharon Stuart. "Can we pull this off?"
Vantine recommended hiring an outside facilitator to coordinate the task force to remove any perceived bias from the process. He also suggested waiting until a new superintendent is in place before finalizing the task force.
"That person I think should be a critical part of the conversation," he said. "This does have budget implications, as well."
The board is scheduled to continue the discussion on the proposed task force at its meeting Tuesday.