An ad hoc committee of Tonawanda City Schools is recommending that the district consolidate its three elementary buildings into one by the end of this decade, but the plan would need the approval of both the Board of Education and a supermajority of residents to proceed.
The Tona 2020 committee delivered a presentation to the board last week. The current timeline calls for a community vote on the issue in 2015, having architects and engineers develop designs for one elementary building in 2016, giving state authorities a year to approve the designs and bid construction out in 2017, and finally completing the process in 2019.
Superintendent James Newton, who also serves on the committee, said they are eyeing the Fletcher building as the sole elementary campus. The district would need to have another capital project to accommodate the additional students at Fletcher. Coming off the heels of another capital project that rebuilt Clint Small Stadium at Tonawanda High/Middle School, such an endeavor would push the district past its debt limit. However, a small city school district like Tonawanda can bypass its debt limit.
“If we want to do a one-campus project, we would have to exceed our debt limit,” Newton said. “We all agreed for the plan to move forward.”
The board requested more information about the plan before making a final decision. The district would also need a supermajority of voters, or 60 percent, to approve the consolidation.
District officials have cited a continued decline in enrollment as one of the primary reasons for consolidating the elementary schools. Such a move was considered prior to the district’s last capital project, but it was deemed cost prohibitive at the time.
Newton said among the positives of a one elementary campus is that instructors would be better able to coordinate their curriculums both in the same grade and across all grade levels because everybody would be in the same building. It also reduces the number of building transitions for a Tonawanda student by establishing one pre-K-to-5th-grade campus and one sixth-to-12th-grade campus.