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International Prep students rally to get Grover back

While media attention yesterday was on the shooting at ECMC and the appointment of the new superintendent, dozens of students from International Prep were rallying at City Hall to urge the School Board to let them move back into the Grover Cleveland building.

IPrep studentsA quick background of the situation: International Prep moved out of Grover a year ago, to the old Performing Arts building on Clinton Street, while the district reconstructed the historic building on the West Side. (Reconstruction generally is a two-year process.)

District officials decided to move da Vinci off the D'Youville campus to save money on the lease -- and put those students into Grover. About a year ago, a plan was floated to co-locate da Vinci and Early Middle College, but the da Vinci community complained, and that plan was abandoned.

The current plan is to expand da Vinci, which is now a high school, to start at fifth grade, and house the school at Grover.

Board member Roz Taylor was the only person on the board to raise a host of questions when the plan was discussed recently. Among her questions: Why would the district be adding seats in grades 5-8 when it already can't fill all the seats it has? The answer, from chief of staff Jim Kane: The district believes an expanded da Vinci could attract current charter school students back to the district. And with each student who returns to the Buffalo Public Schools, comes thousands of dollars. The expansion, he said, could easily pay for itself if enough students return from the charters.

International Prep students last night let the School Board know that they want to move back into Grover. The West Side is becoming more and more of a hub for Buffalo's newest immigrants. Keeping the school in the neighborhood makes sense on many levels, they said.

"Grover has a history on the West Side," said Sadia Mohammad, a student. "It's a multicultural school with 43 languages. Eight out of 10 students who graduated last year are ESL. Parents of the kids who go there, most of them live on the West Side. They have people who speak the same language, share the same culture and traditions as them.

"They don't have to worry about their kids' safety becauase they know their kids go to a school with kids who have the same struggles. Going to Grover gives our families a sense of security and belonging."

Keeping the school in the neighborhood would also make it easier for parents who don't speak English to participate, students said, because they would not have to try to navigate a public transportation system to get across town.

"Being part of this new school will make it easier for parents on the West Side to come to events," said Kahlid Mohamed, a student from Somalia.

To top it all off, Kelli Monaco-Hannon, a teacher at da Vinci, implored the board to keep da Vinci at D'Youville and give Grover to International Prep.

"In December 2011, Sister Denise (Roche, president of D'Youville) wrote a letter to Amber Dixon asking that da Vinci stay in its present location, offering to renegotiate the lease at a reduced amount," Monaco-Hannon said. "As of today, she has not received a response. Why did she not receive the courtesy of a reply?"

Dixon recently asked the board to pass a resolution officially approving the expansion and relocation of da Vinci into Grover, but so far, the board hasn't acted on it.

- Mary Pasciak

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