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West Buffalo Charter adding grades in $6 to $7 million expansion

Big plans are in store for West Buffalo Charter School.

The school, which serves 300 students in kindergarten through fourth grade on the city’s West Side, has been given the go-ahead to expand through eighth grade. Plans also include a $6 million to $7 million expansion of the building at 113 Lafayette Ave.

The New York State Board of Regents approved the school’s application this week and administrators at West Buffalo Charter shared the news with parents Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s terrific news,” said Elizabeth Sterns, the school’s finance and operations officer. “Our parents are going to be ecstatic because this was definitely parent driven.”

“They’ve been asking for this since we opened,” said Andrea Todoro, school leader.

West Buffalo Charter opened on Aug. 10, 2012, at Lafayette Avenue and Barton Street in renovated space at the former Lafayette Hospital.

The school began as kindergarten through second grade that first year and by 2014-15 had grown to kindergarten through fourth grade with an emphasis on small class sizes. The school, where nearly a third of the enrollment are students learning English as a new language, graduated its first fourth-grade class last year.

“The infusion of immigrant and refugee populations has helped fuel the demand for quality education and we are thrilled that we will now be able to serve even more of our neighborhood children,” said Arup Sen, president of West Buffalo Charter’s board.

The state renewed the school’s license for another five years last November; the school then submitted its application to expand to eighth grade.

The new grades will be phased in, starting next year with fifth grade. A grade level will be added each year until 2019-20, when the school’s enrollment will grow to around 500 students.

The addition of fifth through eighth grades would also mean a proposed $6 million to $7 million expansion of the school, including new classrooms, cafeteria, gymnasium and administrative offices. Construction would be done in two phases, although the financing is still being worked out, Sterns said.

“Our families have been asking for their children to be able to stay with us through eighth grade, and it really broke our hearts to say goodbye to our fourth graders at the end of the year,” Todoro said.

“We’re really excited about the fact we’re almost doubling the time we have with these kids,” Todoro said, “and doubling the impact we can have on their lives.”