BY JOE OLENICK
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — NEWFANE –– Closing the Newfane Early Childhood Center could bring some savings, but it would also mean some radical changes in the school district, officials said Tuesday.
Superintendent Christine J. Tibbetts presented Board of Education members with a report looking at four options concerning the future of the Godfrey Road facility. Currently, the NECC hosts Newfane’s prekindergarten and kindergarten classes, as well as the Head Start and Niagara County Speech programs. The district’s central office is also located in the NECC.
”If we were to close the NECC, the board would have to make decisions that are very difficult,” Tibbetts said.
According to the report, the first option is to move all four sections of kindergarten to Newfane Elementary on Transit Road. The move could bring some savings on busing and staffing, as well as a revenue possibility in renting out classrooms. But, it would also present some issues.
The move would crowd the elementary school, Tibbetts said. The kindergarten classes would lose the custom-made classrooms at the NECC.
And that’s if there’s four sections of kindergarten. The move could not happen if there’s a fifth section, Tibbetts said.
The next option is to move both prekindergarten and kindergarten to the elementary school. The advantages and challenges would be the same as the first, but the option could lead to a loss of revenue in the district’s universal prekindergarten grant.
Tibbetts said the grant is contingent on Newfane working with the Head Start program. About half of the grant money would be lost if prekindergarten would be moved out of the NECC.
And the elementary school would be ridiculously crowded then, Tibbetts said.
The third option would be to close the NECC. Both prekindergarten and kindergarten would move to the elementary school, while fourth grade and the district offices would move to the middle school. Newfane’s middle school lease with Orleans/Niagara BOCES would end, costing $108,000 in revenue, according to the report.
There would be about $100,000 savings in utilities if the building were to be shut down completely. There would also be a $254,000 savings in staffing.
If the school were shut down about 80 percent - leaving enough power on for security or heating and ventalition to prevent damage - the savings would be about $80,000 and about $225,000 in staffing.
Closing the NECC completely also means 30 of the 31 classrooms in the elementary school would be filled. Specials, such as music and art, would be done “off the cart,” a term for teachers who travel to each classroom instead of students coming to them.
The last option would to look at district wide reconfiguration. Board President James Reineke said further study would be needed and deciding the fate of the NECC could not be done in the near future. Board members agreed.
”Realistically, we have to plan for the worst,” Vice President Kelly Artieri said.Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241.