By DAVE GYMBURCH Staff writer
Possible use of Denti Elementary School to host a Strough Middle School grade for up to two years during a Strough renovation will be explored by an advisory committee, although some members favor other options.
The proposal, suggested at a committee meeting Monday by Board of Education member Leonard Summa, could displace Denti students for three years overall if approved; Denti students already are scheduled to move to the former Fort Stanwix school in the 2012-13 year during the Denti building’s renovation, while the massive Strough work could encompass both 2013-14 and 2014-15.
Some committee members opposed moving Denti students for that long and questioned whether the building’s design would fit middle-school students, but Superintendent Jeffrey P. Simons said "every idea...will be explored and analyzed." He said "I understand your concerns," but added that the proposal would receive "the same level of evaluation as other ideas." Committee recommendations to the school board are due in June, and Simons said there conceivably could be "two ideas presented...."
Under Summa’s proposal, either Strough’s 7th or 8th grade would move to Denti, and the other grade could use space at the New York State School for the Deaf pending more review; Strough has about 402 students in grade 7 and 381 in grade 8, while Denti has about 475 in K-4. The committee needs to "look at it in greater depth," he said. Committee member Frank Marasco said the proposal would enable Staley Upper Elementary School to continue hosting grades 5 and 6 without disruption, instead of other proposals for relocating Staley students while their building is used by Strough pupils.
However, Simons said afterward that the overall "dialogue" among the committee indicates that the plan with the most advantages for the district would temporarily move Strough students to Staley; divide grade 5 among the six K-4 schools; and place grade 6 at Fort Stanwix which has been used as extra space during other schools’ renovations. But when asked whether that was a likely recommendation, he said to "characterize one as more likely" would be "premature" at this stage.
Simons did note that another proposal for placing grade 8 at Rome Free Academy during the renovation is "becoming less plausible." It could cause "significantly more disruption of programs," he said, and some committee members noted maturity-level concerns about mixing 8th graders with grades 9-12. That plan also would involve placing grades 6 and 7 at Staley, with grade 5 at the K-4 schools. But Simons said the other option placing grades 7 and 8 at Staley would be "less complicated."
Among Summa’s reasons for his Denti proposal is that temporarily dividing grade 5 among K-4 schools would be "too expensive" and could require adding six more teachers at an estimated total cost of $300,000 per year. But committee member Tanya Davis asked "why put Denti through that disruption" for three years. Denti Principal Sherry Lubey said various features at the school were "not designed for that age group" of middle-schoolers.
The committee’s next meeting is May 14 at Denti.