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Da Vinci would shift, grow under plan; Williams is seeking to save $5.7 million

Two popular high school programs in Buffalo would be preserved -- although in different locations -- and two elementary schools would close, under a proposal presented Wednesday by Superintendent James A. Williams.

Leonardo da Vinci High School would expand to include grades 5 through 12 and move off the D'Youville College campus, into a reconstructed Grover Cleveland High School.

The building would be large enough to let the district lease space to D'Youville, Williams said, to offer college courses to da Vinci students.

The popular program, as it currently exists, offers da Vinci students the opportunity to attend D'Youville classes after their high school classes are finished for the day.

Da Vinci students, parents and staff had resisted an earlier plan to split Grover Cleveland into two spaces -- one for them and one for Middle Early College, whose students attend some classes at Erie Community College.

But Board of Education members at Wednesday's committee meeting said they have received positive feedback from da Vinci supporters about the current plan to have theirs be the only program at Grover Cleveland.

Other elements of the superintendent's plan, which the district estimates would save $5.7 million next year, indicate:

The closing of Lafayette High School.

Lafayette has been identified by the state as a persistently lowest-achieving school and, as such, has to adopt one of four school turnaround models. Closing the school is one of those models.

The district's International Preparatory program, currently housed at Grover Cleveland High School, would expand to include grades 7 through 12 and move into the Lafayette High School building.

The school would be linked with nearby International School 45, which will serve students in prekindergarten through sixth grade.

The closing of School 61, at Leroy Avenue and Grider Street.

The 267 students there in prekindergarten through third grade would be moved to Harvey Austin School 97.

Williams said the Jeremiah Partnership, a group of East Side ministers, is interested in opening a charter school in that building if the district closes School 61. The group would like to target youth involved in the criminal-justice system and foster children, Williams said.

Middle Early College would move from its leased space on Main Street to the former Performing Arts building on Clinton Street. Williams said the building would be big enough to house Middle Early College as well as office space.

A few days ago, in a memo to the board, Williams proposed starting to phase out the Middle Early College program by no longer accepting incoming ninth-graders. At the same time, he suggested, the district would explore starting a similar program elsewhere with other educational partners.

On Wednesday night, though, Williams said he had a conversation since then with the principal at Middle Early College, who suggested keeping the program and moving it into the building on Clinton Street.

Most of the students at Campus West would be moved as a group into the nearby Grabiarz School 79.

The lease with Buffalo State College, where Campus West is located, expires in June.

More than 700 students attend Campus West, but more than half have already applied for admission to other schools in the district. About 125 of them have applied for admission to Grabiarz, Williams said. An additional 320 students have not applied to another school -- most of them, in hope that Campus West would be preserved.

Williams told the board that Grabiarz would have enough space to house current Grabiarz students who want to stay, along with the Campus West students who want to enroll there and the Campus West students who have not yet applied anywhere else.

However, the superintendent said he could not guarantee that Campus West teachers would also move to Grabiarz.

Board members said they are willing to rename the school "Campus West at Grabiarz" to help retain the school identity of Campus West.

The board gave Williams permission to hold discussions with parents and staff at the affected schools.

For complete education coverage, go to buffalonews.com/schools.

e-mail: mpasciak@buffnews.com

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