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North Tonawanda to open temporary youth center

The former George Lowry Middle School will once again be home to city youth, starting today.

Part of the site, now known as Gersh Academy, will open as the city's temporary youth center.

The city's fall and winter programs were homeless since the building that housed them for about 20 years, the Col. Payne Community Center, was sold at auction last December.

The city plans to sign a lease through next August while it studies its options for a permanent site, said City Parks, Recreation and Youth Director Jerry Whitehead.

Starting today, the building's gymnasium and several classrooms will be open to city youth.

"We're elated to finally be able to open a center," Whitehead said.

Alan Kornacki, who has been the youth center's supervisor for about 27 years, was still waxing floors and setting up the center late last week.

His goal is to help young people make good use of their leisure time, he said.

The center will be open each week from Tuesday through Saturday.

Children from age 6 through sixth grade can use the center from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.; the center will be open from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. for students in seventh through 12th grades.

For the first 90 minutes, youth center staff will provide help with homework, Kornacki said.

Other available activities will include pool tables, foosball tables, table hockey, gym activities, crafts and Kidsercise, a program involving physical activities geared for younger children.

There also will be basketball leagues for both junior and senior high school students, Kornacki said.

Some adult activities, including adult men's basketball, also are being planned.

The former middle school at 621 Payne Ave. closed in June 2004. Its new owner, Kevin Gersh, plans to turn the building into a school for college-age special needs students.

The city will pay $2,000 per month under the lease, Whitehead said.

"This will have the potential . . . to maybe become long term," he said.

Youth center officials will hold an open house and grand opening from 2 to 6 p.m. Nov. 17 at the new site.

For more information about the center, call 695-8520.


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