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Can Clarence sustain the growth it has experienced in recent years? Will all the available lots be developed? Will the town remain a popular place to relocate? A yes, or even a maybe, to these questions, likely will mean some new classrooms for two of the area's elementary schools.

Members of the Clarence School Board, concerned with providing adequate learning space at the end of the next decade, discussed the issue at length following a Monday night update from the board's Citizens Advisory Committee on Elementary Building Needs.

"We're the fad right now," said board Member John R. Semler, noting that people might be moving to Pendleton or some other community by 2009-10, when the district projects a total enrollment of 5,300, up 1,000 from the current year.

Almost half of that increase, or about 436 pupils, is expected at the elementary level, the focus of a report that the advisory committee is expected to deliver at the Jan. 10 board meeting. The presentation will include recommendations to the board on an elementary capital project.

Mark Hans, chairman of the nine-member advisory committee, told trustees the committee has examined several alternatives, from taking no action to building a new school, but to date supports classroom additions at Sheridan Hill and Harris Hill, the district's smaller buildings.

He said the committee is looking at a possible 12 classrooms at each site, which would bring them roughly in line with the current number of classrooms at Clarence Center and Ledgeview, the larger elementary schools. Hans said that adding the wings would necessitate some other projects. He noted that the size of the schools' gymnasiums, cafeterias and libraries should be increased to reflect the additional capacity.

The committee visited all four elementary schools, looking at a "shopping list" of projects for each building. The list involves various repairs and improvements, some of which could be included in a bond issue.

Superintendent Thomas G. Coseo said the board would have to decide on a capital project by March 29 if a bond issue is to be put before voters May 16, the date of the annual trustee election and budget vote. The project would be eligible for 77 percent state aid reimbursement.

Proposals to add space at one or more of the elementary schools have occurred in recent years with the increase in student population. While the annual increase has averaged about 2 percent per year in the last decade, this year's increase was in the 4 to 5 percent range, Coseo said.

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