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Buffalo schools unable to accommodate most transfer requests

The vast majority of the 2,200 Buffalo Public Schools students who have requested a transfer from a low-performing school to a school in good standing are being denied.Under the district's plan submitted to the State Education Department Friday, only 300-500 students will be transferred this year. Chief of Student Support Dr. Will Keresztes says the district simply doesn't have the space to grant all of the transfers.

"For this year, the target we have is for 300-500 and then, as we implement the rest of the plan, those numbers will increase," he said.

Keresztes says decisions on which students get transferred will be based on greatest academic need.

The district says it has a three-year plan to accommodate all of the transfer requests, which includes opening and closing schools and improving existing ones to meet the demand. Keresztes says he knows parents and students will be disappointed.

"I deeply respect the honest feelings our parents have on this matter. The school district does need to have the capacity to accommodate these requests. I just want to assure parents that this plan is comprehensive, it's complete and doable," Keresztes said.

The district had to submit its "school choice" plan to the State Education Department by Friday. Officials say they are optimistic the state will approve the plan. The district must also submit its decision for East and Lafayette high schools by Monday. The school board has decided to use a partnership between BOCES and Johns Hopkins for an improvement plan at the two failing schools.

State Regents Chancellor Emeritus Robert Bennett calls it a "very serious" issue for city school students.

"This is a federal law we're talking about that John King took an oath to uphold, so he's going to uphold it. If the plan doesn't meet the criteria, I don't know what the consequence could be because there are not a lot of options,"

School Board member Mary Ruth Kapsiak says one of the ideas being considered by the board is satellite locations.

"I've visited schools in other cities where there were satellites, and they worked," Kapsiak told WBFO.

In a written statement, Superintendent Pamela Brown says she believes the plan meets the state's School Choice guidelines and is in compliance with regulations put forth by No Child Left Behind.  

The new school year begins September 5.  

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