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Plans moving forward to turn North Park Academy into community school

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Mike Desmond
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WBFO News
School 66 or North Park Academy

Buffalo Public Schools administrators are telling the School Board they want to turn School 66 in North Buffalo into a community school, starting in the fall of 2018.

The plan is to phase out the current academically troubled school, located at 780 Parkside Ave., and replace it with the new program. That would convert a building with a 7 percent proficiency rate in English Language Arts to a community school with extended days, evening and Saturday programs and a push to get parents involved in their children's education.

How fast that will happen depends on some decisions by the board. The plan requires an addition to the current building, which would include a cafeteria and classrooms and be completed in the fall of 2019.

One of the reasons for the change revolves around the families in the area surrounding the building not wanting to send their kids to the school. The district says 127 kids live within seven-tenths of a mile of the school, but only 10 go there.

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Credit Mike Desmond / WBFO News
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WBFO News

Associate Superintendent Mary Jo Conrad said the goal is to have half the students come from the neighborhood.

"Looking at this point-seven, it is a 50-30-20 model," Conrad said. "So 50% of the students would be coming from within the point-seven, 30% of the students would come from the one-point-five miles and then 20% of the students are citywide is the way the community schools grant's set up."

Right now, of the 496 students within that mile and a half, 23 attend School 66 or North Park Academy.

The new program would have a life and environmental science theme in partnership with the Buffalo Zoo, featuring smaller classes and gifted and talented programming for all students. Current students would stay in the building until they graduate, unless they want to transfer.

Board Member Sharon Belton Cottman said she wants to make sure the program is competitive.

"I'd like to see it with the high-level quality that's being done in our schools that are surrounding us, our suburban schools," she said. "I'm attending Western New York STEM and it just appears that where we are in approaching these things is that we are at a level that we need to rise higher to meet and compete."

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Credit Buffalo Public Schools
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Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.
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