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Ken-Ton consolidation scenario would mean only 1 high school

The Bulldogs-vs.-Blue Devils rivalry would become a thing of the past under a consolidation scenario proposed Monday night by the Kenmore-Town of Tonawanda School Board.

Under the scenario, one of the district’s two high schools would contain grades 10 through 12; a junior high school in the other building would contain grades 7 through 9; and there would be prekindergarten through grade 6 at an undetermined number of elementary schools – although at least two, but possibly four, elementary schools would close.

The scenario was added to three others that the board in August asked its administrative team to study in-depth.

With Kenmore East 56 percent full and Kenmore West operating at 65 percent, board members said the idea was worth looking into.

“Let’s find out what the numbers bear and put that on the table, too,” said Vice President Stephen G. Brooks, who proposed the scenario at the board’s special meeting.

The presence of two high schools has been part of Ken-Ton’s cultural identity for 54 years. Although at the beginning of the consolidation process, the idea of having only one high school was considered a nonstarter, board members said they have heard from an increasing number of district residents who are open to at least studying the possibility.

“No decisions are being made tonight,” Brooks said. “This is just to get everything on the table.”

The other three scenarios would:

• Close one undetermined elementary school and one undetermined middle school.

• Close Kenmore Middle and two or three undetermined elementary schools; reconfigure Kenmore East and West to include grades 8 through 12; reconfigure Franklin Middle and Hoover Middle to include grades 5 through 7; and reconfigure Franklin Elementary and Hoover Elementary and two or three undetermined elementary schools to include pre-K through grade 4.

• Reconfigure Kenmore East and West to include grades 7 through 12; reconfigure the Hoover and Franklin complexes to include pre-K through grade 6; and transform two undetermined elementary schools into “specialty” or “themed” elementary schools.

School Board President Bob Dana said an aggressive approach to consolidation may be what’s best for the district, which saw its unofficial enrollment total slide again in this school year to slightly more than 7,000 students.

Besides achieving some cost savings, consolidation would also help alleviate disparities in class sizes that range from 15 at the smallest and 28 at the largest, he said.

“The reality is, some schools are going to close,” he said. “And the reality is there are going to be some people who aren’t going to be happy.”

The board plans on soliciting public input on the scenarios using methods that may include an online focus group.

Peter C. Stuhlmiller, president of the Kenmore Teachers Association, said he welcomed the new scenario but again pushed for the board to seriously consider selling other district-owned property before schools.

“If they can consolidate some of these non-instructional buildings, it may generate the savings that would mitigate the need to do anything radical with our neighborhood schools,” he said.

The board has asked its administrators to study those possibilities as well. School Superintendent Mark P. Mondanaro said he would likely be prepared to give a presentation on the matter when the board holds its regular meeting Oct. 8.