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Back to the drawing board

Buffalo school officials are still pondering what to do with Middle Early College High School, which is located in a leased space inside one of board member Carl Paladino’s buildings.

The lease at 290 Main St. expires in December, but the consensus among board members is to let the school stay where it is until the end of the school year.

Where to put it after that was the question school officials have yet to answer.

The district has two empty buildings - 187 and 56, and one thought was that high school could go into one of them.

But after Wednesday’s presentation by Buffalo Schools architect Paul McDonnell about how much it would cost, board members dropped that idea and resurrected one that Superintendent Pamela Brown proposed some months ago: housing the school inside another one.

McDonnell, who spearheaded the renovation of 48 buffalo schools under the joint schools construction plan, projected $824,000 for operating costs at School 187 on Clinton Street.

At School 56 on West Delavan Avenue, the estimate is $329,000.

But even before the locations could be deemed operationally fit, a long list of pricey capital improvements need to happen first at both locations.

School 56, for instance, was built in 1901 and meets no modern health and fire codes. Mold and drainage issues are deteriorating part of the basement. There’s no kitchen to make food for students. It’s not handicapped accessible and doesn’t have an elevator.

School 187 on Clinton Street was built in 1912 and is in much better shape,

Still, it would cost the district around $9 million each to do the upgrades. And none of that money is eligible for state aid, McDonnell said.

Board members directed the superintendent revisit her prior recommendation to co-locate - or house - Middle Early College with another school.

It’s much cheaper that way.

“So we’re back to where we started a couple of months ago,” Brown said during Wednesday’s committee meting.

In Brown’s original recommendation, the district looked at merging Middle Early College and International Prep by this past September at Grover Cleveland High School. In the end, International Prep and STAR Academy moved into Grover.

But idea to co-locate Early Middle College could be eligible for building aid funding from the state, “98 percent reimbursement,” McDonnell said.

Middle Early College provides associates degrees to students who attend the high school for five years, while taking Erie Community College courses. The affiliation between ECC and School District ends soon.

David Mauricio, chief of school leadership, reported Wednesday night that the district has been having monthly meetings with Buffalo State College about continuing the program. The college wants the high school to be located on its campus or close by, Mauricio said, but the college will work with students regardless of where the high school is located.

Also during Wednesday night’s committee meeting, Brown presented future plans for the former Pinnacle Charter School, which was shut down closed by state Board of Regents, largely due to a downturn in scores on state-mandated proficiency tests.

It reopened in September as a district school that was annexed - or operationally attached - to an existing public school.

Called Annex 115, the students and many of their teachers were allowed to stay together in the same building in which Pinnacle operated on Ash Street.

For the 2014-15 school year, Brown’s recommendation is to keep them together but move them into a school in the district’s inventory.

The way it would work, the district would apply to State Education so that 115 would no longer be annexed.

“It would be a school unto itself, and we would ask the state to designate it as a school in good standing,” Brown said. 

At the December 4 committee meeting, Brown will propose a specific location to move the school.

-- Deidre Williams

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About School Zone

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee

Denise Jewell Gee joined The Buffalo News in 2007 and currently covers education and suburban schools. She also writes a column for the City & Region section and previously covered government in Erie County and Niagara Falls. Gee graduated from Boston University with degrees in journalism and political science.

@denisejewellgee |

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes

Tiffany Lankes joined The Buffalo News in 2013 and primarily covers the Buffalo Public Schools. She has written about education since 2003 at newspapers in Florida and New York. In 2008, she was a nominated finalist for The Pulitzer Prize. Lankes is an Amherst native and graduate of Sacred Heart Academy and Syracuse University. She started her journalism career writing for the News’ NeXt section.

@TiffanyLankes |

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan

Sandra Tan has been a cityside reporter for The Buffalo News since 2000 and currently covers the Buffalo Public Schools beat. She previously covered the Williamsville school district and was a full-time education reporter for five years prior to joining The News. She graduated from the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism.

@BNschoolzone |

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams

Deidre Williams began working for The Buffalo News in 1999 and currently covers Buffalo Public Schools. She formerly was a suburban reporter on the Northtowns beat and has been a cityside reporter covering communities since 2004. Williams has a mass communications degree from Towson University.

@DeidreWilliamsB |