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Parents air concerns on plan to build new school More facts, figures sought from officials

Some residents who attended a special Olean School Board work session Monday urged officials to get more facts and figures before moving forward with a proposal to build a new elementary school and close one or more of the district's five elementary buildings.

Wednesday, the board will discuss a list of recommendations provided Monday by three configurations committees that began meeting last fall on improving district facilities, curriculum and transportation.

Also on the table are a series of changes that architects suggested for East View and Boardmanville elementary schools, where North Hill Elementary's 135 pupils will be sent if that school is shut down.

If board members vote next Tuesday to close North Hill when classes end June 30, the district could save an estimated $304,000. Members of the Curriculum Committee say that money can be spent on academic intervention, reading instruction, smaller classes and salaries to pay full-time nurses and guidance counselors in all the remaining buildings.

Some parents complained that not enough is known about the costs of the plan. Others said their children would not benefit from these programs or from a new school built in another neighborhood.

One district resident said she learned from her own research that renovating and preserving old school buildings is a new trend that Olean should get involved in.

One parent accused officials of splitting whole neighborhoods while concentrating only on the financial benefits of school reconfiguration.

"How is that going to give my child a better education?" Tracey Padlo asked. "We're diverting money and spending it elsewhere. We're not saving the taxpayers anything."

Superintendent Mark Ward suggested attaching a new elementary building to the middle school to provide greater aid reimbursements and said he advocates using $100,000 of the North Hill savings to prevent a tax increase and spending the rest on programs.

The Facilities Committee recommended waiting another year to reconfigure the district, and the Transportation Committee recommended bus transportation for all students living a mile or more from their assigned school, bus monitors on the vehicles and shuttles for displaced North Hill Elementary pupils in the event that school is closed.

Board member George Pancio said he fears closing schools before having solid cost estimates.

Board member Ira Katzenstein suggested the goal of having three elementary schools by the year 2010 but noted closing one school might be delayed until a new one is ready.

Board President Michiko McElfresh said it is up to the board to decide whether to go forward with a vote next Tuesday on the closing of North Hill and the formation of a task force.

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