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NEW BUILDING RULED OUT, BOARD DEBATES OPTIONS

Building a new school right now is out of the question, Lancaster Central School District officials say as they seek a way to balance enrollment increases.

"A new school will take three to four years to build," Georgette F. Pelletterie, a School Board member, said at Monday's meeting. "We have a growth problem that needs to be dealt with today. Building a new school does not address that issue."

Despite a controversial redistricting plan in 1998 and the opening of a $17.9 million school for fifth- and sixth-graders, overcrowding remains a problem.

"In the past, we've only had short-term solutions," said Lorraine Bona, School Board president. "No matter how we redistrict, it seems that it only works for the short term. We are now looking for the option that is the longest-term solution, because I really, truly hate moving kids all the time."

Last month, board members agreed to prepare a redistricting proposal for a Feb. 1 vote.

Officials cited residential development as a major reason why some schools rapidly reach capacity.

The north side of the town has more schools than the south portion, where development has been concentrated, Bona said.

The increases are most evident in Como Park and Court Street elementary schools, the southernmost schools, she added.

After last month's presentation by Superintendent Joseph L. Girardi of 10 redistricting possibilities compiled by the Attendance Boundary Committee, the board had directed the committee to explore four of the options.

Two would involve "major, major reorganization shifts to split the district in half geographically, but they wouldn't cost the district anything and could be implemented very quickly," Girardi said.

One of those plans includes designating Hillview and John A. Sciole elementary schools in the north side of town first- and second-grade schools.

Court Street and Como Park elementary schools in the south would turn into third- and fourth-grade schools, while Central Avenue Elementary School would become a kindergarten center.

Another plan also would convert Central Avenue Elementary into a kindergarten center, while Hillview would become a third- and fourth-grade school, and Sciole would be designated for first and second grades.

In the southern portion of town, Court Street Elementary would house first and second grades, while Como Park would become a school for third- and fourth-graders.

Educationally, this is probably the best alternative, Girardi said, adding that this approach would handle any growth patterns.

Youngsters also would remain with the same core group of classmates, even though they would move to different schools, school officials said.

"The only thing that changes is the building, but not the kids," Girardi said.

The remaining two options to be explored involve using temporary classrooms, called modulars, wherever needed and turning one of the elementary schools into a kindergarten center.

"It's a very complex situation," Bona said. "There is no option that will make everyone happy. We are looking for the one that is best for the kids."

e-mail: dswilliams@buffnews.com

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