Another round of consolidation could be in store for Lockport City Schools.
Board of Education members will decide next week what to do with Washington Hunt Elementary School on Rogers Avenue. Trustees will vote on whether the school will be sold, leased out or spared completely. If approved next week, closure of the building wouldn’t take effect until September 2013.
But if a lengthy discussion Wednesday was any indication, the district is leaning toward selling or leasing the building. Still, that doesn’t mean board members are taking the decision lightly.
“I love Washington Hunt, this is absolutely killing me talking about closing Washington Hunt,” said board President John Linderman, who has had children attend the school.
Voters approved an $18.9 million capital project last year, which would address a number of items in buildings throughout the district. Among those include an addition to Roy B. Kelley Elementary, the school where most Washington Hunt students would probably attend. None of capital project work was slated to be done at Hunt.
Built in 1930, the 30,620 square-foot Hunt building does not have an elevator or ramps, is not ADA compliant and is not handicap accessible. There is very limited parking and often there is traffic congestion at arrival and dismissal times.
To bring the school up to compliance with ADA regulations and to address every concern at Hunt that appeared on the district’s building condition survey, Lockport would have to spend about $2.5 million, said Deborah Coder, the district’s assistant superintendent for finance. The ADA regulated upgrades alone would cost $1 million and would have to be done if anything on the BCS was addressed, no matter how low the cost.
Lockport is projected to save $592,231 from closing Washington Hunt. That comes from a savings of $535,394 in staffing, $33,086 in utilities, $12,865 in the cafeteria fund and $10,884 in insurance and supplies.
Superintendent Michelle T. Bradley said the savings in staffing would come in cutting four teaching positions. However, at this point that does not mean layoffs.
”It may not be layoffs, that would be the worst case scenario,” Bradley said. “We are notified of retirements by Feb. 1, it’s way too premature. We may not have to lay off if we have enough retirements.”
District officials had a commercial realtor look at Hunt, which was valued at $134,150.
Board members said Wednesday at least two parties have shown some kind of interest in Washington Hunt, including Eastern Niagara Hospital. No one has officially approached the district however, officials said.
Trustee Joe O’Shaughnessy said the district should be careful of who leases or buys the school. Residents in the area have expressed concerns about it to him, O’Shaughnessy said.
Consolidation is something Lockport City Schools has been through a few times, especially over the last few years. In 2010 the district closed DeWitt Clinton and turned John Pound into an early childhood center. Clinton was leased and then sold in 2011 to Head Start of Niagara County.
Also last year, Lockport merged its middle schools, turning Emmet Belknap into a fifth and sixth grade building and North Park into a seventh and eighth grade school. All of the elementary schools house students in kindergarten through fourth grade.
Coder said there is space in the remaining four elementary schools to accommodate the Washington Hunt students, once the Kelley addition is complete. The site plan for the addition is being reviewed and work should start in the fall.
The district is in contact with the City of Lockport about the traffic concerns at Kelley, Trustee James Gugliuzza said.
Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241.