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School map ignites furor over changes Revised plan debated in Orchard Park

Is redistricting attendence areas for elementary schools a question of privilege and favoritism in Orchard Park?

Nobody talked openly about it before last Tuesday, when the Orchard Park Central School Board chose a plan on which it intends to vote later this month.

But Plan 212 -- which would require 212 children to change schools -- calls for reassigning children living in the Green Lake neighborhood, which had not been part of previous discussions. It also would spare children from several well-heeled subdivisions from changing schools, contrary to a community group's proposal.

Another issue involves moving children to Windom Elementary School, which some consider less desirable than the other three in the district.

Robert Barone of Green Lake says he has no doubt that the board -- besieged by vocal opponents of the previous plan -- has put aside the original core principles of the Re-Alignment Task Force, such as sending children to the closest school.

"It reeks of politics and money," he said.

Debbie Ryczek, who lives in a part of West Seneca within the Orchard Park School District, has followed the two-year effort closely and fought to keep all of the Camelot neighborhood in the Eggert Elementary School attendance area.

"It has to do with money; it has to do with Orchard Park," she said.

Public comments on the new plan will be heard at 7 p.m. today in the district administrative office, 3330 Baker Road. The board plans to vote on the plan Nov. 27.

Under the plan, children from Green Lake would move from South Davis Elementary to Windom. The Eaglebrook, Westgate, Cherokee and Camelot neighborhoods would move from Eggert to Windom, and the Murphy, Draudt, Newton, Judith Road neighborhoods would move from Ellicott to Windom.

Since Tuesday, telephone calls and e-mails have been flying among residents, board members and Superintendent Joan Thomas. Thomas said she had received about 100 e-mails last week, compared with about 600 commenting on the previous plan that would have moved about 670 pupils.

"They don't want to move. It's understandable, they all love their schools," she said.

Thomas said the capacity committee decided last November that to ensure parity in class size, redistricting was necessary. The School Board reaffirmed that tenet last month. The building enrollment and class sizes are more equitable under Plan 212, she said.

"Our problem at South Davis is there is no place to go. I'm going to have to put the art and music on a cart," she said. "It's just not a good situation."

But Green Lake residents say moving their children, who walk or ride their bicycles to South Davis, is not the solution.

Karen Kane, a Green Lake resident, said she lives in the village by choice, because of the closeness of the school and other amenities, such as the post office and library.

"It seems like they want to get this out of their hair as quick as possible," she said. "I think it's just a numbers game. They're looking to lessen the opposition they're hearing."

Some say the redistricting would diminish the amenities offered by the Village of Orchard Park if some of those children are bused to the school farthest away.

While the board has strived to keep neighborhoods together in one school, others say this issue is splitting the community.

"It's been a disgrace; everybody is fighting against one another," Ryczek said, adding she was not pointing out a specific area, but "there are tons and tons of neighborhoods that are way closer to Windom."

Patrick Crowe, also of Green Lake, said the issue should not be rushed. Although it is emotional for parents and children, opposition should not be based on emotion, he said.

"We have substantial unemotional reasons why it just doesn't make logistical sense to move [children from] our neighborhood," he said.


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