The Buffalo School District wants to tap into the Buffalo Billion and partner with Alfred State College to turn one of the city’s struggling high schools into a new academic career hub for advanced manufacturing in the next school year.
That plan, being announced today, comes amid other district plans to create a new Medical Campus High School and relocate, revamp and expand the former Pinnacle Charter School. The School Board will also consider the potential development of a new elementary school focused on the fine arts.
Plans for several of these new programs are up for discussion at this evening’s School Board meeting at 5:30 in the Buffalo Academy for Visual and Performing Arts.
Burgard High School, which could be converted into the career hub for advanced manufacturing, is currently home to the district’s welding and automotive technology programs, though both programs have historically been underutilized by Buffalo students. The school has had one of the poorest graduation rates in the district, at under 30 percent.
The plan for next school year, based on partnerships with several outside organizations, would turn Burgard into an accelerated vocational/college program that would enable students to graduate within five years with both high school career certification and an associate degree in manufacturing-related fields.
“It’s looking at taking Burgard and offering three advanced diplomas there,” said David Rust, executive director of Say Yes Buffalo.
Representatives from Say Yes, the Buffalo Billion Initiative, Alfred State and Burgard are expected to roll out the initial proposal for board consideration.
Katherine M. Heinle, director of the Buffalo Public Schools’ career and technical education programs, said Burgard’s new program would enable students to concentrate in welding, computerized machining and manufacturing, and automotive repair.
Teachers from Alfred State would offer college-level courses at Burgard, Heinle said, and students who wish to enroll at the college, located in Allegany County, would be free to continue taking courses there, as well.
Committees working as part of Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion economic-development initiative recommended that Buffalo develop this program because of an anticipated 17,000 vacancies in local advanced manufacturing jobs expected between now and 2020.
Superintendent Pamela C. Brown on Tuesday called the new Burgard concept an “innovative, world-class program.”
“We invite the public to tune in to (tonight’s) meeting to learn more about it,” she said.
Though no dollar figure has been attached to the program, costs are expected to be “nominal” because Burgard already has a lot of up-to-date manufacturing technology as a result of the district’s school reconstruction effort, district leaders said. Officials say they hope money from the Buffalo Billion could support some equipment upgrades.
Board member Sharon Belton-Cottman, sponsor of the resolution directing the district to develop the advanced manufacturing program, said she expects it to result in higher enrollment at Burgard. “A lot of work has gone into it, and a lot of people are onboard with it,” she said.
The board also is expected to approve plans for the district to create a new Medical Campus High School, which would offer career courses in medical laboratory, health information technology and health facility management.
The school, which would open to 250 ninth- and 10th-graders starting next fall, would be housed in the vacant School 8 building at Masten Avenue and East Utica Street. It would be one of two new high schools being opened next year as part of the district’s plan to accommodate students who want to be transferred to schools in good standing with the state, Brown recently told the board.
The second new high school, to be housed at School 78, would accommodate all the students from the former Pinnacle Charter School and have room for more than 200 additional students, Brown said.
The Medical Campus High School concept was championed by board member John B. Licata, who introduced a resolution over the summer to develop the themed high school.
“The Medical Campus is the single largest employment opportunity for graduates of the Buffalo Public Schools,” he said. “Unlike Bethlehem Steel, which we had for many years, we’re always going to need people to take care of the sick, and the Buffalo Medical Campus doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere.”
Licata said he expects every student enrolled in the new high school would learn first-aid and CPR training, and that many may go on to do apprenticeships on the Medical Campus in their junior and senior years. He said he also expects the district to recruit immigrant students in the district who could be trained as medical translators.
The resolution up for approval tonight lists no cost estimate for what is likely to be an expensive commitment, though it appears the district will be applying for grant money.
“Whatever we need to get it open, we’ll have to do,” Licata said. “I know there are a number of leads we are following.”
Board member Jason M. McCarthy is also recommending that the district create a “Charles Burchfield School” focusing on fine arts for children in prekindergarten through fourth grade. He’s asking that the district consider creating the school as another part of the district’s larger plan to accommodate student transfer requests.