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PARENTS FIGHT TO KEEP SCHOOL OPEN

About 100 Grant Elementary School parents, some with their children in tow and babes in arms, organized Wednesday night to fight the possible closing of their neighborhood school.

A facilities utilization study by the Western New York Educational Service Council recommended that the Board of Education close the school by the end of this academic year to save tax money.

The North Tonawanda School District is operating on a contingency budget adopted after two budget proposals were defeated by district voters.

Leading Wednesday night's organizational drive, held in the Grant School cafeteria, was Cheryl McMahon, secretary of the Grant Home School Association. McMahon said she has spoken to all members of the School Board, and all assured her that the Grant closing is "not a done deal."

School Board member Michael J. Harms said he attended Wednesday's meeting "as an observer."

Mayor Mary C. Kabasakalian offered her help. "I can't promise anything," she said, "but there is a right way and a wrong way of doing things.

"I hope the Board of Education does the right thing" and explores other ways of saving money.

Grant, one of six elementary schools in the district, has an enrollment of about 260. Most children walk to their neighborhood school. If it closes, they will be bused to other schools.

There was no shortage of volunteers to head and serve on committees set up to deal with the school crisis and to prepare arguments for presentation at an Oct. 11 School Board meeting at which the consultants' recommendation will be discussed. For example, June Keeney volunteered to head a committee to prepare petitions and informational fliers to be distributed around the city.

Nick Malamas, with encouragement from the crowd, volunteered to head a committee to research questions such as: Will the closing actually save money, given the necessity for busing Grant pupils to other schools? How have other school districts met budget crises without closing schools? What will be the impact on the district overall? Would it result in larger classes and overcrowding?

Those at Wednesday's meeting were asked to come up with creative alternatives to closing. A committee will seek input of teachers, who are faced with the possibility of reduced staff.

Many questioned the impact on the Grant neighborhood of an empty school building on the street, fearing that it will reduce property values.

A questionnaire will be sent to neighborhood residents, asking what they intend to do if the school is closed. Some said they were attracted to the neighborhood by the nearness of a school.

Even the smallest detail was not overlooked. A committee was formed to provide transportation to the Oct. 11 School Board meeting.

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