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Tonawanda City School District breaks ground on consolidated elementary school

Groundbreaking ceremony for Tonawanda City School District elementary school
Tom Dinki
Tonawanda City School District officials and elected officials throw ceremonials shovels of dirt during a groundbreaking ceremony for the renovation and expansion of Fletcher Elementary School on July 27, 2021. The $53 million project will allow the school to close its other two elementary schools and house all K-5 students under one roof.

The Tonawanda City School District is officially one step closer to a newly renovated building to house all of its elementary school students.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held Tuesday morning at Fletcher Elementary School, which will be transformed over the next two year to a consolidated elementary school for all of the district’s roughly 870 K-5 students.

The $53 million renovation and expansion of the existing building has been in the works for over a decade and was approved by taxpayers in October of 2019.

Groundbreaking for Tonwanda City School District elementary school
Tom Dinki
Tonawanda City School District officials and Gordon W. Jones Associates Architects participate in a groundbreaking ceremony for the district's new consolidated elementary school July 27, 2021.

“Now, people are seeing the action,” said Superintendent Dr. Timothy Oldenburg. “When you drive by, you can hear, in the background, machinery moving and the project really digging in, so to speak. It just brings the reality of the paper plan to the actual work that's going to be done.”

The new Fletcher school will allow the district to close its other two elementary schools, Riverview and Mullen.

District officials have said creating one new building will be cheaper in the long run than fixing up the three existing buildings. It will also account for the district’s declining enrollment, which has fallen over 20% percent during the last 15 years, from 2,252 in 2005 to 1,729 last school year.

Oldenburg said while the community has a lot of pride for its elementary schools, and some “mixed emotions” about the consolidation, the plan is ultimately best for students and taxpayers.

Tonawanda City School District elemetary school rendering
Tonawanda City Schools
A rendering of what Tonawanda City School District officials expect Fletcher Elementary School to look like once it undergoes a renovation and expansion over the next two years.

“Unfortunately, there are some competing interests that continue to put pressure on districts in the sense of balancing and being conservative to taxpayers and delivering required services to students,” he said. “And it becomes more and more difficult to do with aging buildings.”

Fletcher Elementary fourth graders will move to temporary classrooms at the other schools, while Fletcher Elementary fifth graders will move to a private wing of the middle school. They and the rest of the district’s elementary students are then expected to begin taking classes at the new Fletcher Elementary in the fall of 2023.

Tom Dinki joined WBFO in August 2019 to cover issues affecting older adults.