Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District officials and board members have approached an unhappy set of options to cope with decades of plummeting enrollment openly with the public. That means something.
Kenmore Middle School would close, but could reopen as an administration building under each of the four reorganization plans being considered by the board.
The district’s unofficial enrollment recently stood at just above 7,200 students, a far cry from its peak of more than 22,000 students. Just as in the case of many school districts that have lost population, Ken-Ton school officials, parents and the community have to face the often painful idea of school closures. One to two elementary schools would be closed in each plan, and the entire district would be reorganized.
Last week, parents and teachers had their first chance to see which elementary schools might be closed. Potential savings under the plans range from $3.73 million to $6.54 million a year. Reduction in staff would be as low as 65 employees or more than 100.
Efforts to glean savings not through layoffs but through attrition should be supported. Preserving the programs that make this district, or any district, special is also important. District officials have made clear their commitment to maintaining high standards.
Change is inevitable and, in this case, necessary. It is difficult for parents and grandparents with history in a well-achieving district. It’s tough to see one’s alma mater shuttered, especially when it affects the lives of the students currently attending those schools. But district officials have demonstrated a willingness to listen, no matter how difficult the conversation to the community. That is not a trait always demonstrated by others.
This has been a long discussion. Consolidation talks began 19 months ago and still continue. Superintendent Mark P. Mondanaro spoke true words when he said that the only thing harder to close in a community than a school is a church.
There are no easy choices, but the opportunity to preserve what makes Ken-Ton special is easier done with community input, and that is something officials seem to understand.