Staggered class schedules and day-care services for teachers at the new Niagara Falls High School are closer to a reality, now that students and school employees have spoken.
Surveys conducted by the school district, in preparation for next fall's opening of the new high school, have yielded these results:
Two-thirds of faculty and staff members taking part in the survey expressed interest in working an earlier shift, from 7:05 a.m. to 2 p.m. The current schedule is from 8:15 a.m. to 3:10 p.m.
More than four out of 10 school employees also said they would work a later shift, from 9:20 a.m. to 4:15 p.m. (Some said they would take either the early or late schedule.)
"That's good news; that's very encouraging," said School Superintendent Carmen A. Granto. "It also means we can stagger the buses -- and not have to buy so many buses. Because now they can turn around and come back and pick up the next kids at the school."
The main purpose of staggered scheduling would be to let some students arrive early and stay late, others to arrive late and leave early, depending on their special needs or preferences.
"We were surprised by the interest in late and early starts, so we can possibly do some of this," said Cynthia Bianco, assistant to the superintendent, who tallied and interpreted the results.
If teacher response to nontraditional schedules had been lukewarm, it would have been difficult to go to staggered scheduling, because employees, by contract, are entitled to the present 8:15-to-3:10 hours.
Staggered hours won't be the only brainstorm of the High School Quality Council that comes true next fall.
The employee survey also asked about the need for day-care services at or near the new high school on Porter Avenue. Forty-four of the 157 teachers and staff members who responded, or 28 percent, said they wanted it. Their answers indicated that 75 to 80 children would take part.
"Looks like we're going to have day care!" Granto exclaimed. "It just shows that stuff works -- if you listen to people's needs and give them a chance to be counted."
There is more.
Some eight months before the new doors open next September, faculty and incoming students already have been assigned to the four theme towers of the $73 million high school.
Each tower, or "house," will contain up to 600 students and will have its own academic theme.
The four houses will have these academic themes:
Math, science and technology.
Communication and performing arts.
Global business, finance and entrepreneurship.
Health, sports management and recreation.
Students, faculty and staff recently submitted their first and second choices.
"Something like 80 percent of the kids will get their first or second choice," said Granto. "That looks good."
Faculty and staff members also have been assigned to the four houses, based on survey results.
"We got 157 responses to this survey," said Bianco. "Of these, 93 got first choice, or 59 percent, and 36 got their second choice, or 23 percent. Another eight, or 5 percent, got their third choice, but that was only because of certification problems for the theme they wanted."
Another 20, or 13 percent, offered no choice of house in the new school.
"Eighty-two percent got their first or second choice -- that's pretty good," Granto added. "We didn't know what to expect when we made this survey. It could have been a logistical nightmare."
The principals of the four houses will be Judith Warren, now principal of LaSalle High School; Robert DiFrancesco, principal of the present Niagara Falls High; Manning Fogan II, vice principal of LaSalle High; and Mark Laurrie, principal of Niagara Middle School. All will serve under the chief educational administrator, Philip J. Mohr, principal of LaSalle Middle School.