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STATE DELAY ON RENOVATION PLAN REACHES 61/2 MONTHS

The Frontier Central School District has been waiting more than six months for approval from the state Education Department on renovations that will be made to every school in the district.

"We submitted the plans 6 1/2 months ago," Richard A. Binner, assistant superintendent for business, said Tuesday night. "It has not been reviewed by the state. It's not that the project is difficult or unusual."

Binner said that the plan review usually takes about two months but that a large number of districts have submitted building and renovation plans. District officials also suspect that the failure to agree on a supplemental state budget may be connected to the backlog.

"This budget scrum in Albany has had a serious effect on our district and a lot of other districts," School Superintendent Gary R. Cooper said.

Binner said he has been told several times that Frontier's project will be reviewed soon. He said that while it is still waiting for approval for the first phase, the district is preparing to submit plans for its second phase of renovations Oct. 1.

"Those items we can do this fall, we will do," Binner said.

He also said the district has not yet borrowed money for its alternative-education building, which is under construction.

"We don't know yet if it will be a 15- or a 30-year debt service," he said.

He said the state will decide whether districts can borrow for 15 years, or whether the debt service must be spread over 30 years. Binner said the district estimates that it would cost $3.5 million more in interest if it had to bond over 30 years.

Also on Tuesday night, summer school director George Santoro said 1,900 students from 36 school districts attended Frontier's program last summer. He said a new schedule of four instead of five days of school, with classes of 108 minutes, drew overwhelming support from students and faculty members.

There was a 16 percent increase in attendance, he said, and discipline referrals were down by 46 percent.

"I feel it was a direct result of scheduling. I just think students reacted better to it," he said.

Santoro said that attracting teachers to work at summer school has become more difficult but that the four-day schedule should help in recruiting more faculty.

The superintendent said there are 5,639 students enrolled in the district this September, 48 more than last year.

e-mail: bobrien@buffnews.com

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