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CONCERNS AIRED ABOUT NEW SCHOOL

After having "less-than-anticipated" participation in discussion groups among Orchard Park School District residents, representatives of Syntax Communications reported to the School Board Monday on residential concerns over preliminary plans for a new $90 million high school.

A Syntax representative said concerns included overcrowding, overtaxing, enrollment projections and the price tag.

"The majority of the group clearly recognize that there is a space problem," said Kip Dunn of Syntax. She said there is confusion over when existing buildings were built, when additions were added, and how many pupils are housed in each school.

Parents and staff had a lot of concerns over teachers being mobile -- traveling around the building and not having their own classroom spaces. There are overcrowded hallways, narrow stairwells and concerns about safety and evacuations and perception that there is a lack of storage space for instructional material, a lack of space for teacher planning and preparation and for parent-teacher conferences.

"We heard about closets being used as classroom space, and how unacceptable it is for a child to have a remedial class being taught in a closet. We talked about inadequate parking space for events at the high school, and we also talked about inadequate practice facilities for athletics," said Dunn.

"Enrollment is a shady area because on one hand people are saying you see all the growth around you. The enrollment trends are puzzling for people because they don't necessarily mean the students are all coming in on the kindergarten level. People have questions about where our enrollment is. There seems to be a real strong awareness that the middle school is a key problem area," said Dunn.

If voters approve the project in the fall, fifth-graders would be moved to the middle school after the new high school is opened.

Dunn said the majority of residents she spoke to were shocked at the $90 million projected cost, and several board members said they were equally shocked and want to do everything they can to pare down the price.

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