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A big demand for placement in the city's lone magnet school, Kalfas Elementary, has resulted in a drive to create a second magnet school.

"Each year, we've had hundreds more applications than spaces," said Cynthia Bianco, assistant to the superintendent for Niagara Falls City School District. "We know we have the demand for this type of schooling."

Officials are looking to convert Henry F. Abate elementary school, Lockport Road and 11th Street, to a magnet facility. Abate, located in the central city, has an enrollment of 918 pupils.

"We've been seriously watching Abate," Ms. Bianco said. "It's way over what it should be regarding racial balance. We know we have to do something."

Districtwide, the racial-balance policy per school is set at 64 percent majority and 36 percent minority -- plus or minus 10 percent, Ms. Bianco explained. According to Ms. Bianco, Abate is at least 54 percent minority.

Next year, the district will apply for a state planning grant to study Abate with an eye toward conversion, according to Carolyn F. Holder, magnet school director and Abate principal.

Last year, the annual admission lottery at Kalfas drew 600 applications for 100 spaces, including 80 for prekindergarten, according to Ms. Bianco.

Kalfas has become the prototype for other schools in the district, she added.

"It was the first school with full-day kindergarten. It was the first school with computers and networking," Ms. Bianco explained. Kalfas has 604 pupils attending prekindergarten through fifth grade. The school is entering its ninth year, and has been praised as a model of excellence in teaching and learning by the U.S. Department of Education.

Kalfas has strong parental involvement, Ms. Holder said.

"There are two adults for every class," said Ms. Holder, explaining that the maximum class is 20 pupils for prekindergarten, 25 pupils for first and second grades, and 25 or fewer pupils for third through fifth grades.

Admission is voluntary, and based on a lottery and racial balance.

Incoming siblings of a child currently attending the school will be given preference to attend if space exists.

This year's lottery will be held at 3:30 p.m. April 21 at Kalfas, 1800 Beech Ave.

Applications must be received by 4 p.m. Friday in the Instructional Office of the Niagara Falls City School District's Administration Building, 607 Walnut Ave.

Students for the prekindergarten program must reach age 4 on or before Sept. 1, 1998. Students for the kindergarten program must reach age 5 on or before Dec. 1, 1998.

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