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Amherst Central High School could have a distance-learning facility by early next year, according to an update at Tuesday's School Board meeting.

Mark A. Whyle, the district's director of administrative services, said officials are looking at possible spaces for the facility and consulting a technology expert from the University at Buffalo.

Funding of the distance-learning lab will come from capital project funds, Whyle said. In response to trustee questions, he said that converting a room and purchasing the equipment would cost $70,000.

But Whyle said distance learning has potential for elementary schools as well, so the district is considering a similar facility in Windermere Boulevard School. However, a Windermere program would likely depend on the availability of a grant or other aid.

Superintendent Dennis D. Ford noted that elementary schools are just beginning to get involved in distance-learning programs and that the district could eventually have four participating sites. Whyle said the additional sites would open up the program to community use.

Other local districts have created distance-learning labs. The program offers students and teachers an interactive video link with other schools and educational institutions in Western New York and other parts of the world.

In another matter, board President Paul V. Batt Jr. noted that capital project work at the high school and Windermere is progressing nicely.

The high school addition should be completed in October and the Windermere project in November.

The new track complex is also set for a November completion, but Whyle reported a $30,000 change order to put stone and gravel into an area that proved unsatisfactory in a compaction test. Whyle said he notified the Amherst Central Alumni Foundation, which is raising money for the track.

In other business, the board approved a three-year agreement with the 110-member Amherst Paraprofessional Association, which represents the district's teacher's aides and monitors, as well as audiovisual and television technicians.

The agreement, effective last July 1 through June 30, 2003, provides for average salary increases of 3 percent for each year of the contract. However, retirements and staff turnovers will result in a cost to the district of about 2.75 percent per year. The union has ratified the pact.

Trustees also accepted the resignation, effective last Friday, of Michael Calandra, assistant principal at Amherst Middle School for the last two years. Calandra has accepted an administrative position in the Williamsville School District.

Ford said the district has advertised the vacancy, and he hopes the position will be filled in no more than six to eight weeks. In the interim, the district is considering the use of a teacher on assignment to fulfill the duties of the job.

The board also:

Heard that swings and blacktop have been removed from the old playground at Smallwood Drive School and work has begun on the tennis courts. Recognized Mercedes Richelt, the Smallwood fifth-grade teacher selected as a New York State English Council 2000 Educator of Excellence.

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