By Jessica Bagley
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — TOWN OF TONAWANDA — Thomas Jefferson Elementary students reported to their last first day at the school Tuesday. Amid excitement for the beginning of classes there was an expected level of sadness due to the recent decision to close the school for the 2013-14 school year.
“It’s very hard,” Kerri Brown, who was picking up her third-grade daughter at the school said. “It’s a strong community, and it’s kind of bittersweet.”
Brown said she’s most concerned about her daughter having to change schools again, when the larger redistricting plan takes effect.
“I wish they would do it all at once,” Brown said. “And eliminate the possibility that they have have to move one or two more times after this.”
Although Brown said her daughter will attend Franklin Elementary, the Ken-Ton school she is assigned to for the next school year, she said she knows many parents are looking to send their children out of the district as a result of the closing.
Other parents had just moved their families to the area and were disappointed their children would get a fresh start just to change schools again in a year — but most have lived in the area for a long time.
“It’s sad to see it go in such a strong community,” Carolyn Haug said.
Haug, who has a first-grader at Jefferson, said she’s glad the other schools in the district will provide a quality education for her son.
“I’m very happy with the selection of schools here,” she said. “But it is just not as close. Busing may be an issue.”
The first day was emotional for parents, students and teachers alike, and many were concerned the closing would affect their kids both this year and next year.
“I understand that the district needs to cut down,” mom Jill McGloin said. “But I hope this year won’t be all like today, and that it is upbeat and positive for the kids.”
Superintendent Mark Monandaro announced his recommendation to close the school Aug. 13 and put it to the school board at the body’s regular meeting the following day. It was approved in a 4-1 vote.
Monandaro did not return repeated calls Tuesday, but said in August the decision is necessary now to preserve important student programs in the face of dwindling state aid and
“All I have left is class sizes and unmandated programs,” he said in a meeting in August. “It’s something we don’t want to do, but it does preserve student programs — not just for Jefferson, but for the 7,400 in the district.”
The closing was a result of an eight-week study that looked at a number of different factors, including projected enrollment and proximity to other elementary schools. It’s expected to save the district $2 million after accounting for seniority bumping rights among unionized teachers being reassigned. The 271 students enrolled at Jefferson this year will be sent to Edison, Franklin, Lindbergh and Hoover due to their ability to expand.
Twenty teaching positions will likely be cut as a result.
The board also approved the hiring of SES Study Group as a consultant in the process of a larger redistricting plan Aug. 14. The company was hired at a fee of $54,750 and is expected to begin a study at the end of the month and finish it by spring.
“The study will more likely than not (include) a number of options, and it will involve a lot of people,” Mondanaro said. “But it will take time to decide what the best option is. It’s the future of the district.”
Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150.