The Tonawanda School Board began the process of a major restructuring of the district Tuesday evening by unanimously agreeing to seek proposals to consolidate its three elementary buildings into one.
The tentative consolidation plan, dubbed “Tona 2020,” would leave Fletcher School as the only remaining elementary building in the district. The consolidation would require another district capital project of $30 million to $40 million to retrofit Fletcher to accommodate all the students.
With the district currently completing an $11.9 million capital improvement that saw extensive work at the Tonawanda High/Middle School campus, another project would push Tonawanda past its debt limit. However, the district can go ahead with the project if they win at least 60 percent of the community’s approval during a voter referendum.
“In my opinion, it’s not too early [to propose another capital project],” said Superintendent James Newton. “The savings realized would be substantial.”
What concerned some board members is the high cost of another project, which wouldn’t go out for a vote until the district hires an architectural firm to design the Fletcher changes. If the public doesn’t approve it, the district would still have to pay upwards of $2 million just for the designs.
Board President Jennifer Mysliwy encouraged administrators to seek alternate forms of funding, including grants, for the expense of the designs. The board heard a presentation from Robert J. Miller, a Tonawanda grant writer, about securing outside money.
“We can’t risk that kind of money,” Mysliwy said of the design costs. “We would have to know it would pass [a public vote].”`
In other matters, the board held its annual reorganizational meeting and unanimously appointed Mysliwy to her first term as board president. A member of the board since 2009, Mysliwy previously served several terms as vice president under former president Sharon Stuart.