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SURPRISE DROP IN SCHOOL ENROLLMENT PROMPTS NEW LOOK AT EXPANSION PLANS

An unexpected dip in enrollments has Cheektowaga Central school officials rethinking building expansion plans.

District schools counted 2,438 students in class this week, 4.6 percent under the 2,550 projected, according to Superintendent Leslie B. Lewis.

"I don't have a clue yet what the numbers mean. They break almost every pattern or trend we've seen over the past six years," Lewis said.

Two months ago, officials were saying that steadily rising enrollments might find voters trooping to the polls as soon as Christmas to decide on a multimillion-dollar building expansion at the district's Union Road campus.

The School Board formed a steering committee to look into moving sixth-graders out of the overcrowded Union East Elementary School and into a new 700- to 725-pupil middle school at the current junior-senior high school complex.

But if there once was a sense of urgency attached to the committee's work, it was eased by this month's back-to-school enrollment figures.

"They certainly make us take notice and step back and try to figure out what's happening," Lewis said Tuesday.

Overall, the current enrollment of 2,438 is 51 fewer students than last October, 36 fewer than last February and 112 fewer than the 2,550 that officials had projected.

Numbers at Union East Elementary, the catalyst for expansion planning, show four children fewer than in February and 46 fewer than projected, while the Pine Hill Primary Center has 18 fewer children than in February and 33 fewer than expected.

The district reported a junior-senior high school enrollment of 1,123 this month, 14 fewer than in February and 33 below the estimate for this year. Only three grades exceeded projections -- barely. There are two more second-graders, five more ninth-graders and five more juniors than projected, according to the enrollment report.

But the other grades fell 124 students short of projections, led by 23 fewer kindergartners.

Here is the February 1999 enrollment, projected September enrollment, and actual enrollment for all grades:

* Kindergarten -- 188, 180 and 157. * First -- 185, 208 and 198. * Second -- 192, 193 and 195. * Third -- 190, 202 and 182. * Fourth -- 211, 195 and 186. * Fifth -- 189, 221 and 203. * Sixth -- 182, 195 and 194. * Seventh -- 197, 194 and 180. * Eighth -- 182, 201 and 185. * Ninth -- 249, 218 and 223. * Tenth -- 185, 220 and 211. * Eleventh -- 163, 167 and 172. * Twelfth -- 161, 156 and 152. The district's September enrollment of 2,438 compares to 2,489 in October 1998 and 2,474 last February.

Meanwhile, the School Board this week added two people to the instructional staff -- elementary teacher Shannon Sosnowski and physical education teacher Gary Kopacz. The board also approved a contract with Athleticare for an athletic trainer on the condition that Kopacz be the person assigned to the district.

The board also accepted the resignations of James Maurino, a physical education teacher, and Joseph Stawisuck, a technology teacher.

Derek Eich was named assistant football coach for the fall season.

The board denied a request by Expert Driver Training to use school facilities.

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