Parents and students affected by the Buffalo School District’s bungled “planning,” if it can be called that, have been given a raw deal. It is up to district officials to straighten out this mess, and for the outgoing School Board to stay out of the way.
The disarray was detailed in a story by News staff reporter Deidre Williams on the last-minute conversion of Pinnacle Charter School into Public School 115 last fall, the shattered hopes for Martin Luther King Multicultural Institute 39 on High Street and the district’s proposal to transform Bennett High School into a new school focusing on science and technology.
Those not-so-well-laid plans have run into stumbling blocks that have left about 1,000 students wondering where they will attend school in September and frustrated parents at their wits’ ends as they try to find the best education for their children.
The district fumbled on initial plans to close MLK, which serves students in grades pre-K through eight, and reopen it as the Buffalo Medical Campus High School for grades five through 12 focusing on medical careers. The district’s transformation plan fell short and the state rejected it. Nothing new in that failure; the district has often fallen short on its transformation plans.
The state wants an acceptable plan for the school. That’s not too much to ask, especially when it comes to turning an elementary school on which $16 million was spent into a new school.
In April, seemingly good news arrived from the feds. The board won a $3.9 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor to establish the medical high school. That transformation plan would displace roughly 400 elementary students currently enrolled at MLK.
More than 500 children would have been displaced, but members of the incoming School Board majority say they intend to allow the children currently attending that school to remain there for another year and relocate the Medical Campus High School to East High School.
There’s also the problem of the district’s plan to close School 115 and merge it with Harvey Austin 97, one of the district’s lowest-performing schools, which will affect about 400 students. And there’s the state’s rejection of the district’s proposal to transform Bennett. The state specifically said that the district could not accept any freshmen for the school, starting in September, and someone must be appointed who would oversee a plan for Bennett, and explain how that would work.
Much will change come July 1, when the new board takes over. In the meantime, the outgoing School Board should try to do no (more) harm.