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Plan would upgrade Lockport High School

The Lockport School Board agreed Wednesday to consider a capital project that would significantly upgrade Lockport High School for students and make its facilities accessible to the whole community.

School Superintendent Terry Ann Carbone proposed a wide-ranging plan that would, among other things, convert the old, worn down school auditorium and music instructional areas into a performing arts center.

She also proposed the construction of a second-floor above the school's technology wing to house the Lockport Opportunities Project for special-education students who now attend the old Charlotte Cross Elementary School on Main Street. She said it would be "a school within a school," but would make the students a part of the high school and have access to programs that are available to all students who attend the school.

The plan also calls for renovating the technology wing to bring it up to standard.

"Right now we have technology rooms that are old-style industrial arts-type rooms. They are not high-tech, computer type of situations where kids can be thinking about becoming engineers," Carbone said.

She also said in her plan "We'd create a new fitness center that could support the Healthy Schools Act and create an appropriate facility to house the beautiful new fitness equipment we are acquiring" with grant monies. "We are getting all this equipment and don't have a facility that's at the level it should be to accommodate it."

"I really feel this high school should be considered a community center that people in the community should be able to use," she said.

She asked the board to consider the project because she feels that a great high school would make Lockport more attractive to people who are looking to buy new homes. Moreover, it would improve the learning environment for all Lockport high schoolers, she noted.

The board also might want to go along with the proposal because the district is in good financial shape and could do the project at no added cost to property owners.

She said state funds made available to the district for capital projects and money from the district's Capital Reserve Fund could be used to pay the 20 percent local share of the cost while the state Education Department would pay the rest.

If the board could come up with a plan this winter, she said it would be possible to present it to the public in a referendum vote on May 20, and construction could begin in the summer of 2009.

Board member Thomas Fiegl asked if the board might first want to replace its three older elementary schools, which cost a lot to maintain, with a new, large building.

"Look at Niagara Falls, they have the same problems we do and they've built a new elementary school and a new high school. How did they do that?" Fiegl said.

Carbone said she was meeting with Niagara Falls School District officials next week to see how they have managed to do so much in spite of their being in a poor small city.

Interim Business Administrator William Leardini told Fiegl the board also should consider studying the elementary school situation along with the high school proposal. He added that it should get going on the high school project right away because that can be done more quickly.

Fiegl, who chairs the board's Facilities Committee, called for a committee meeting at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday to begin discussing Carbone's proposal.

e-mail: pwestmoore@buffnews.com

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