Borders defined for NT school reconfiguration

The North Tonawanda City School District will reconfigure its buildings for the 2018-19 school year, and part of that process has been determining new boundaries for elementary school enrollment. 

Superintendent Gregory Woytila gave a presentation at Sept. 5’s board of education meeting to discuss which kindergarten through third grade students will be sent to which of the district’s three remaining elementary schools, Spruce, Ohio and Drake. 

Students who live south of Wheatfield Street/Erie Avenue and the segment of Walck Road between the Erie and Niagara Falls Boulevard will go to Spruce. Students who live west of the route that follows Payne Avenue to North Avenue and then out to Ruie Road will attend Drake, while the students to the east of that route will attend Ohio. 

“Basically, Drake’s not changing much, (its boundary is) going down a little bit farther to Wheatfield Street,” Woytila said. “The students that are all affected are Meadow, because they would have been right in the middle. Now they’re shifting to Ohio.”

The current Meadow Elementary building is set to become the new North Tonawanda Middle School, while the current middle school is slated to become an intermediate school, catering to students in grades four through six. Spruce and Ohio schools will enroll approximately 350 students each, while Drake, which is a bit smaller, will enroll between 290 to 300 students.

In other news, the district’s special education department is making a push to prioritize integrated education for elementary students with disabilities. This means teaching both general education and special education students simultaneously in the same environment, said John Moskalik, director of special education, during a presentation to the board. 

“All students will benefit from the integration and collaboration of the general education teacher, the English as a new language teacher, the special education teacher and support staff working in (the) least restrictive environment,” Moskalik said. 

Some possible ways to carry out this plan out include adding more staff training programs, having general and special education teachers in the room at any given time and implementing multi-age classrooms. Moskalik said another benefit of integrated class settings is the reduction of “stigma associated with pull-out programs.” 

Participating in a “fully integrated” classroom setting can be beneficial to all students, not just those with special needs, Moskalik said. He added that while North Tonawanda never intended to fully separate the students, it happened anyway. At the end of the day, he said the mission is inclusion and quality education. 

“We simply believe we must find better ways to include all students,” Moskalik said. “This isn’t going to be easy, but I think we’ve got the momentum going and we’re going to keep working because it’s the right thing to do.”

Woytila said classroom integration will be kept in mind as the district plans for next school year. He said Sept. 5’s presentation was the first of several on the topic. 

The also board announced that it will be hosting a series of meetings to review district policies, which will be held at 6 p.m. on the third Wednesday of each month at the district administration building at 176 Walck Road. The meetings will start on Sept. 20 and begin with a conversation of the district’s discipline policy. 

These meetings will be open to the public, but not open for public comment. Guests will have to option to offer input at the regular board meeting following each policy meeting. The next regular meeting of the North Tonawanda Board of Education will be held at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 4.