After a few years of silence, the possibility of consolidating all elementary buildings into one in the Tonawanda City School District was discussed at the Board of Education meeting Tuesday night.
Superintendent James Newton confirmed the discussion following the meeting, as the district’s long-range planning committee Tonawanda 2020 considers using Fletcher Elementary as the lone primary school building for pre-K through fifth grade. Tonawanda currently has three elementary buildings following the closing and sale of Highland School four years ago.
“The issue right now is when would be the right time to do this, and the cost of it, because we would have to expand Fletcher School to accommodate about 750 students that would be housed there,” Newton said.
Declining enrollment has been cited in the past as one of the reasons for consolidation, and the trend seems to be continuing. The district is using a formula to project future enrollment, and Assistant Superintendent Mary Beth Scullion said Tuesday she expects about 20 fewer students in Tonawanda schools next year.
Tonawanda previously considered merging schools in 2010 based on a recommendation from another long-range committee comprised of parents, teachers and community members. Another major recommendation at the time was moving Clint Small Stadium to the Tonawanda High/Middle School complex, which became the centerpiece of the district’s $11.9 million capital project proposal in 2011.
While board members and administrators viewed initial presentations about a single elementary campus when the 2011 capital project was in the planning stages, the concept was eventually dropped in favor of the new Clint Small Stadium, upgrades to the athletic campus, and repairs to the existing elementary buildings.
“In my opinion, it was probably cost-prohibitive at that time,” Newton said of why the district dropped the lone elementary campus concept in 2011.
The superintendent is meeting with financial advisers this week to consider funding for a possible consolidation, including state aid, grants from the Greenway program, and even another capital project to present to voters. Newton and his advisers will also examine the district’s debt limit so they know “what we can present to taxpayers and whether this is even doable. If it turns out it is not, then the Tonawanda 2020 committee would have to look at other options.”
“The committee is in consensus that (another capital project) is what we would like to see,” he said. “We’re all on board, but the financial picture would have to be there for us to proceed.”
The district is in the final stages of completing the 2011 capital project. Clint Small Stadium opened last fall, a revised bus loop and parking lot at the high school was completed over the summer, music and choral rooms are set to be revamped, and the Board of Education toured the new weight-lifting center prior to the meeting.
“I applaud the community for supporting (the 2011 capital project), because it makes Tonawanda that much better,” said Board President Sharon Stuart.