Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Newfane

March 2, 2011

Newfane looking at closing school

CUTS: District needs to close $600K budget gap.

NEWFANE — Facing a $600,000 budget deficit, the Newfane School District is looking at breaking down the intermediate school and closing the Early Childhood Center.

As the district stands to lose $2.1 million in state aid under Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposed budget, Superintendent Christine J. Tibbetts presented two options on how to close the deficit to the Board of Education Tuesday night.

Tibbetts said the district has already looked at some cuts in programming and staffing, covering $1.4 million of the shortfall. That includes cutting two administrative positions as well.

Newfane has difficult but important choices to make, the superintendent said.

“We are facing some catastrophic decisions,” Tibbetts said.

Tibbetts said district administration has, and would continue, to look at everything on the budget. She did not name the staffing and program cuts, so the district could speak with those affected first. Nothing is final, Tibbetts stressed, and no decision has been made yet.

“There are rumors out there our kids won’t have any college and AP classes, our kids won’t have any electives, our kids won’t have any sports, our kids won’t have any music, our kids won’t have any art,” Tibbetts said. “That is not going to be true for next year. At least as of today, I can’t say what will happen if we continue down this road.”

Tibbetts said the district is trying to maintain as many as programs as possible. Closing a building will help shoulder some of the burden so the cuts won’t be completely on staff and programs, she said.

Currently, the Early Childhood Center in Burt houses Newfane’s pre-kindergarten and kindergarten classes as well as Head Start of Niagara County. The intermediate school, which shares the same building as the middle school on Transit Road, houses the fourth and fifth graders.

According to the state education department, the Early Childhood Center has about 214 students while the intermediate school has about 295 kids enrolled. Those numbers are from the 2009-10 school year, the latest data available.

Option one would be to eliminate the intermediate school, moving the fourth grade to the elementary school on Transit Road. Fifth graders would stay in the middle school and be on the same bell schedule as the sixth through eighth grade.

Option two would be close to the same, except Newfane would close the Early Childhood Center. The pre-kindergarten and kindergarten students would be moved to the elementary school, while the fourth and fifth grade would be added to the middle school.

There is a third option, Tibbetts said. The option would be to change nothing, which would be fine, except for one thing.

“We’d still have to come up with that $600,000,” Tibbetts said.

The board will meet again March 15 and have another budget workshop. The first public presentation of a draft version of the 2011-12 budget is scheduled for April 5. New York residents vote on school budgets May 17.

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