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School to expand into middle grades

Elmwood Village Charter School will expand into the middle school grades starting next year.

The school, which now serves students in kindergarten through sixth grade, will add a seventh grade in 2011-12 and an eighth grade the following year.

Parents pushed for adding the higher grades, said John Sheffield, the school's director.

"They had really been lobbying hard," he said. "It was very important to them that they could keep their children at Elmwood Village Charter School through middle school and have a continuation of the high-quality program they've become accustomed to."

Sixth-graders at the school cheered when he told them the expansion had been approved, he said.

The state Board of Regents recently approved a charter renewal for the school that included plans for the expansion.

Elmwood Village has had one classroom of 25 children at each grade level. That changed this year, when the school added a second kindergarten class.

The recent charter renewal also will allow Elmwood Village to gradually add a second class at every elementary grade, as this year's two classes of kindergarten move up. Next year, the school will have two classes of first grade; the following year, it will have two classes of second grade, and so on.

"It's exciting we got our full renewal and expansion," said board President Liz Evans. "It makes our quest for an expansion building all the more pressing."

The school's current location at 124 Elmwood Ave., near Allen Street, will not be big enough to house the added classes next year.

School officials were hoping to expand into a two-building campus by buying the former School 36 on Days Park, but a legal challenge by developer Samuel J. Savarino has put those plans in limbo.

The city was ready to sell the building to Elmwood Village Charter School, but a State Supreme Court justice this summer ruled the sale invalid. The city will offer the building for sale again.

Elmwood Village Charter School officials say they still hope to expand to the former School 36, but for now, they are looking into temporary solutions for next year.

"There are some possible temporary solutions, places that could accommodate a classroom or two for a year or two, that would be adequate for us to get our expansion under way and add our seventh and eighth grade," Sheffield said.

Despite the uncertainty over exactly where all of the classes will be housed next year, the charter school's officials say they are confident they will secure space somewhere before the next school year begins next September.

"I have no doubt we'll have the room," Evans said.

e-mail: mpasciak@buffnews.com