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What will happen to Pinnacle Charter students?

Since the Board of Regents voted to close Pinnacle Charter School, the school's board has been investigating legal avenues for fighting the decision.

In the meantime, district officials have been looking at how to make room for more than 500 students who are likely to be returning to the Buffalo Public Schools in the fall.

Pinnacle Charter2Last week, Regent Bob Bennett was promoting the idea of turning Pinnacle into a conversion charter school, similar to what Westminster Community Charter School is.

"If the district wanted to, they could make it a district charter school and keep it intact," he said. "If they’re worried about those kids, and I hope they are, that’s what they should do."

That, apparently, was also what Pinnacle officials were hoping for. But it doesn't seem that's going to happen. Last night, Interim Superintendent Amber Dixon said that after talking to State Ed officials, "it became apparent that wasn't an option -- we didn't have enough time."

Another option under discussion was having another charter school annex Pinnacle -- also something that wouldn't fly under charter school law, Dixon said.

What about opening one of the district's old school buildings and creating a new school for Pinnacle students? (This is an idea that School Board President Lou Petrucci at one point seemed to be interested in.)

"The state said we would just be adding to this district another school that would end up getting named as a PLA," Dixon said.

The bottom line is that the district is going to look for space in existing schools, with the hopes of adding an entire classroom of Pinnacle students wherever there's room. For instance, one school might have the space to add a section of first grade. Another school might have the space to add a section of fifth grade. And so on.

"We're trying to make this transition back to the Buffalo Public Schools one that's respectful and easy," Dixon said.

CFO Barb Smith said the district will save $6 million next year in tuition payments that would have gone to Pinnacle. In exchange, the district will have to hire 24 teachers. Smith says that translates into a savings of $4 million for the district.

- Mary Pasciak

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