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Ken-Ton focus group favors closing Kenmore Middle, Holmes schools

Holmes Elementary School and Kenmore Middle School would close under an option most favored by a focus group of residents who met over the weekend to review a consolidation study for the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School District.

But school officials emphasized that the group’s input is just one part of the process.

“There is nothing that’s etched in stone,” School Board President Bob Dana said. “Everything’s open. These are all tools to help us make up our minds.”

During a daylong session Saturday, the group’s 88 members were divided into eight teams of 11 and asked to identify the “opportunities and challenges” of scenarios developed by consultants from SES Study Team, according to a copy of the agenda provided to The Buffalo News. After hours of review and discussion, they were asked to rank eight possible scenarios on a point scale.

Option G, which would close Holmes Elementary and Kenmore Middle, received the most points. The option calls for the fewest numbers of schools to be closed, except for one that calls for no closures.

Under the option, pre-K through fifth grade would be offered in Edison, Franklin, Hamilton, Hoover, Lindbergh and Roosevelt elementary schools. Hoover and Franklin middle schools would offer grades six through eight, and the high schools grades nine through 12. It would save the district an estimated $1.6 million.

Holmes serves a large western portion of the town that is mostly industrial but includes the low-income Old Town and Sheridan Parkside neighborhoods. Kenmore Middle School is in the center of the village.

Some focus group members said they favored Option G because it closes the fewest number of schools while still taking some form of action. Dana called it the “minimally invasive” option.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Stephanie Shaw, a focus group member and district parent, said she supported Option B, which would close five elementary schools, because it would diversify schools, concentrate resources and allow eighth-graders to mix with high schoolers more.

“I also think fiscally it needs to be B,” she said. “Fiscally, we need to be responsible for not having to go through this process again in couple years when G doesn’t save us enough.”

A final report from the consultants that includes the focus group’s input will be issued by the end of June. A special board meeting will be held July 23 with the focus group. Public comment is encouraged at a July 25 work session with the district’s administrative team.

School officials say they’re waiting for the process to play out before deciding on a course of action. Even if Option G is ultimately implemented, Dana said, it may not be Holmes and Kenmore Middle School that close.

“As we start to discuss things and consider things, there may be two other schools – an elementary school and a middle school – that may be considered,” said Dana, who, along with other board members and upper-level administrators, observed the focus groups.

Board members have expressed frustration with claims made by a vocal movement opposed to any consolidation that the board already has an outcome in mind.

“Why would we go through all this grief and aggravation and stress and anxiety if we’ve already made up our minds?” Dana asked.

He and School Superintendent Mark P. Mondanaro are expected to briefly report on the focus group at the board’s regular monthly meeting at 6:30 tonight in the community room of the Philip Sheridan Building, 3200 Elmwood Ave.