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Buffalo school district wants to relocate MST’s 5th- to 8th-graders

Students at a middle-high school in Buffalo could be in store for some big changes in September.

The Buffalo school district wants to relocate the fifth- through eighth-grade students at Math Science Technology Preparatory School, or MST, to another building and use the school on East Delavan Avenue as more of a traditional high school for those in grades 9 through 12.

MST served roughly 600 students last school year.

District administrators made the recommendation Wednesday to the School Board, which signed off on the idea. The district hopes to get formal approval from the state Education Department for the next school year.

It has been difficult meeting the social and emotional needs of all the school’s students, who range in age from 10 to 18, said Sabatino Cimato, associate superintendent of school leadership.

The grades 5-through-12 configuration also has made it tough implementing an instructional strategy at the school with such a wide range of ages, he said.

“It has been challenging to say the least,” Cimato told the board. “There are definitely different needs between the middle and high schools. This move enables a more strategic focus on the instructional and maturational needs of students.”

Cimato and Principal Todd B. Miklas presented the proposal to the board Wednesday.

The fifth- through eighth-graders would be relocated to what is now School 39 on High Street, which will close at the end of this school year and be empty in the fall.

“How many students?” board member Barbara A. Seals-Nevergold asked.

“Total number of students, 240,” Cimato said of the fifth- through eighth-graders.

Board member Theresa A. Harris-Tigg asked whether the middle schoolers would eventually feed back into MST as high school students.

“Hopefully, yes,” Cimato said.

The reconfiguration comes when the district will introduce the Bioinformatics and Life Sciences Research Lab at MST in the fall. The lab will partner with the University at Buffalo, SUNY Buffalo State and Empire Genomics. Sixty students have been accepted into that program, which will operate out of MST as a school within a school.

The building on East Delavan once housed the then-Seneca Vocational High School. MST opened there during the 2006-07 school year with sixth- and ninth-grade classes, officials said. Grade levels were added as the students grew through the program. A fifth-grade class was added a few years later.