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SCHOOL CHANGES IN LACKAWANNA SPARK CONCERNS

A new community group in Lackawanna is considering a challenge to the School Board's reconfiguration of classrooms throughout the district.

The School Board last Thursday approved a number of changes, including rehousing elementary grades in different schools and adding sixth grade to the high school building on Martin Road.

The rehousing is of particular interest to the newly formed Community Coalition for Children's Education, a group concerned about education issues in Lackawanna.

"The shared-decision making process was not fully realized," coalition member Tina Hatem said at a meeting Wednesday night. "When it came to this particular decision, we were left out."

She said members of the group are seeking the input of several attorneys and have been told it would be possible to challenge the board's decision. The group has not yet made a decision, she said.

Currently, kindergarten through fourth grades are housed in Truman and Franklin elementary schools, fifth and sixth grades are in McKinley School, and seventh through 12th graders attend the high school.

The plan adopted by the board would put prekindergarten in the first floor of Franklin, kindergarten in the first floor of Washington, first, second and third grades in Truman, and fourth and fifth grades at McKinley.

A middle school would be created in the old wing of the high school, housing sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth grades, while 10th through 12th grades would be located in the new wing of the high school.

Mrs. Hatem, a member of the building decision team at Truman, said the building teams were sent a letter about the proposed changes in mid-June. The teams responded they needed more input and a public forum before making a decision.

Board President Diane Kozak, who joined the board July 1, said the new housing configuration gets the district into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. A proposal to build a new school to get the district in compliance was defeated by voters.

She said district representatives are to appear in U.S. District Court later this month and need to have the issue resolved before then and before the start of the school year.

But the 30 parents who attended Wednesday's meeting in the Lackawanna Library said the speed with which the board acted and the lack of community input has left many residents angry and bewildered.

"There are people rushing, tripping over each other to get their kids in Catholic school," one woman said.

"I have four children, the oldest going into sixth grade, and they'll be going to four different schools," said Phil McDonald.

The group scheduled its next meeting for Aug. 6 at the library.

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