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BOARD TO RECEIVE ESTIMATES FOR NEW BUILDING SCHOOL

The Orchard Park School Board Tuesday will receive its first real estimates on the cost of building a new school but may still be missing a major piece of the funding puzzle.

Vicki Jefferis, who heads the board's facilities committee, said the board will be presented detailed cost estimates for one building option and broader price ranges for others.

The option to be detailed is expected to be to build one high school and convert the current high school into a second middle school.

The big question, though, is how much aid the district can expect to receive from New York State. Richard Petrus, the district's assistant superintendent for business, said he hadn't received any answer on that.

"All I need is one number from them," Petrus said. "I guess they're finally working on it, more than a month after we asked them. . . . I'm hoping to get that before Tuesday night."

The meeting will be at 7 p.m. in Orchard Park Middle School. It will be preceded by a facilities forum at 6, but the cost estimates for the project won't be presented until the board meeting.

While there had been discussion of a second high school in the district, that option has mostly been dismissed, Jefferis said. That was one of the conclusions her committee was able to draw from a survey sent to district residents last month.

Although roughly 10,000 surveys were sent out as the back page of the district newsletter, there were only 387 responses.

"We had hoped for a little bigger response," Jefferis said, "but I was also told this is the biggest response for any survey the district has ever sent out."

She said the survey confirmed, through overwhelming consensus, what she had heard from community groups and in talking with parent-teacher organizations on a few issues.

"It's a community that prides itself on having a center, having a characteristic unity," she said. "We don't want to go the route of other suburbs, which have gone to having north, south, east and west."

Jefferis said the survey showed that people are equally concerned with providing opportunities for students and keeping taxes in check, but that they also recognize overcrowding as a problem in Orchard Park schools.

"The message is getting out there that even if we don't add one more student, we're overcrowded," she said.

But, she said, 75 percent of the respondents were age 40 and over and either had children in the upper grades or who had graduated.

"We didn't see much from parents of young children," Jefferis said. "It did tell us, boy, when we get to the point of trying to sell a proposal, that's a group we really have to talk to."

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