By DAVE GYMBURCH Staff writer


HOW TO MAKE STROUGH RENOVATIONS FLY — This file photo is an aerial of Staley Middle School where teachers and administrators have been asked how to make any temporary move of Strough students to Staley successful for both Strough and Staley Middle school students. (Sentinel photo by John Clifford)

Staley Upper Elementary School’s faculty will be asked what is needed to effectively change its 5th and 6th grade alignment for two years if the site is used by Strough Middle School students during a renovation.

District Superintendent Jeffrey P. Simons on Monday told an advisory committee for the Strough project he will ask Staley Principal Karen Miller to "facilitate a discussion" with faculty of "what would you need" for "the best chance of making the transition successful for students."

However, while much of the committee meeting involved debate about Staley impacts if the Strough student relocation is approved, Simons also called for more detailed reviews of previously mentioned alternatives including the New York State School for the Deaf, Rome Free Academy and Denti Elementary School.

Simons asked committee members to participate in a "space analysis" walkthrough at NYSSD for whether it could accommodate either 7th or 8th grade from Strough. In addition, he has asked RFA Principal Mark Benson and Strough Principal Tracy O’Rourke to explore changes needed for RFA to temporarily host 8th grade; Benson previously said the school lacked enough classrooms to isolate that grade in one wing. Simons also said he needs Denti Principal Sherry Lubey to lead a sub-group in looking at Denti as a possible temporary home for Strough’s 7th or 8th graders; in that scenario, Denti students would remain longer at the former Fort Stanwix school where they already are scheduled to relocate during a Denti renovation in 2012-13.

Simons is aiming for the reports in time for the committee’s next meeting June 6, as the group of staffers, parents and other district residents nears its deadline for recommendations to the Board of Education. Recommendations are due next month, and a board vote is anticipated June 20.

The $25.4 million Strough renovation, which could relocate students for both 2013-14 and 2014-15, was approved by district voters in a public bonding referendum last December.

Several Staley and Denti teachers attended Monday’s committee meeting at Denti. A widely discussed option would temporarily move Strough’s 7th and 8th grades to Staley; divide Staley’s 5th graders among six K-4 schools; and place grade 6 at Fort Stanwix.

Staley math teacher Mary McCormick expressed concern that if the 5th and 6th grade alignment, created seven years ago, were broken up for a year or two, it would "not be the same" afterward. Staley Parent-Teacher Group President Tanya Davis questioned the disruption for faculty of potentially "moving them throughout seven buildings."

But Strough music teacher and band director Anne Gannon said "I feel like we’re dividing against each other" and "not working for the children," whom she said "will bend" and adapt to a temporary change. Denti kindergarten teacher Barb Vacca said that while there were many complaints "over who goes where," the "main goal" should be "doing what’s best for our kids."

The "driving force," said Simons, is that "the public said ‘renovate that school,’" and the district needs to determine the safest and most efficient plan while recognizing there may be short-term disruptions. He said he has "great confidence in our staff to deliver quality programs" regardless of the relocation plan selected. His confidence was echoed by school board President Patricia Riedel and member Mary Davis.