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Olean board to get reports on elementary schools

Subcommittees will report to the School Board on the issues of facilities, curriculum and transportation at a special work session at 4 p.m. today in the Olean High School board room.

The subcommittees have been meeting for several months, as the board prepares to decide whether one or more of its five elementary schools should be closed to improve curriculum, costs and efficiency.

Wednesday, the board will meet for a monthly work session and is expected to discuss a proposal to close North Hill Elementary School on June 30. The members could decide the matter as early as the Feb. 21 meeting.

Superintendent Mark Ward also has requested board members vote that day to set up a task force to help the board conduct a feasibility study of a three- or four-elementary school configuration.

The district has an enrollment of 1,139 elementary pupils, plus about 90 in prekindergarten. If North Hill is closed, Ward has told residents, the district could save about $304,000 annually. That money could be used to hire additional part-time staff to provide for full-time guidance counselors and nurses in each of the elementary schools, while consolidating art, music, library and technology resources and beefing up after-school and other programs.

North Hill's 149 pupils would be divided between East View and Boardmanville schools until Boardmanville receives upgrades to accommodate all the North Hill children. Bus transportation would be extended, but because buses are not full now, additional vehicles probably would not be necessary.

Other options for consolidation include more school closings, adding another prekindergarten in one of the buildings and moving fifth-graders to the Middle School, where enrollment has dropped since it was completed several years ago.

Three of the elementary schools are more than 50 years, with Ivers J. Norton built in 1909, North Hill in 1921 and Boardmanville in 1922. An elementary building condition survey completed in December by Hunt Engineers of Horseheads identified the need for $9.2 million in renovations and repairs. North Hill Elementary's share of the total is $1.8 million.

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