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Tapestry Charter School board set to vote on Olympic Avenue site

The Tapestry Charter School’s 12-member board will meet in its Great Arrow Drive building late Wednesday to decide whether to proceed with a proposed $370,000 purchase from the city of the former School 78 on Olympic Avenue, after school officials admitted Monday night that they should have gotten parents more involved in the expansion plans.

At the Monday night meeting attended by nearly 100 parents, Tapestry officials also suggested the possibility of using school buses to pick up students and at least serve as a shuttle between the two school buildings.

Amid complaints from some parents about not having enough notification over the plans to shift the school’s K-5 students to the Olympic Avenue building, Jack Turner, principal of grades K-8, and Lynn Bass, high school principal, admitted more should have been done to inform parents of the 840 students now in the K-12 school.

“The process so far has eroded trust,” Turner conceded during the two-hour session in the school’s cafeteria-auditorium. But Turner stressed plans to create a newsletter for parents.

Bass, acknowledging that she is a former parent activist herself, told all the parents “we want you to be part of the conversation” about how best to educate “our children.”

Turner and Eric Klapper, chief operating officer of the school, told the audience that the administration had examined 15 possible buildings and sites in the Buffalo area to expand the school operation, which is becoming limited for new students in all grades at its current location off Delaware Avenue.

Klapper said the old School 78 at 345 Olympic Ave., which had begun operations as a Buffalo public school in 1927 but has not been used for the last three years, was found to be in the best shape of all the sites examined, given the charter school’s limited operating and capital budgets. It would be renovated structurally and environmentally to ensure its safety for students and staff. Turner said plans are underway to create a fully fenced-in playground at the Olympic Avenue site for the young children who will be there, should the board adopt the proposed purchase.

After Monday evening’s session, Klapper said the Tapestry administration is considering long-term renovation work totaling about $5.5 million on the Olympic Avenue site.

Joy Pepper, Tapestry’s executive director and one of its founders, said the Olympic Avenue site will be only about three miles from the school’s current building at 65 Great Arrow, a consideration because parents routinely drive their children to school and pick them up every day after school.

Pepper said the administration knew it lacked the estimated $13 million to expand operations on Great Arrow. She said the decision to promote the Olympic Avenue site is thought to be “a good move for our community.” And Pepper called the Olympic Avenue building a “really workable” operational site.

Turner said that if the plan goes through, the school will hold a series of public meetings with neighbors around the Olympic Avenue building to discuss the increase in traffic.

Tapestry administrators stressed that Buffalo police officials already have agreed to increase patrols around the Olympic Avenue building if the school is opened there.

Ulysees O. Wingo Sr., Masten District Common Council member, told the audience that the residential area around the Olympic Avenue school building is a safe area for a school for younger children. Wingo also noted that the “very dense residential area” around the school ensures that “it is not a violent or hostile area” for students and school staffers.

The building was used as an Olmsted school for a while, apparently without any major complaints from parents.