Education

N.Y. Irons Out Details Of Buffalo School Construction Blitz

By Joetta L. Sack — May 21, 2003 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

It’s been a long haul, but this summer, Buffalo, N.Y., will begin a 10-year plan to rebuild all of its school facilities at an estimated cost of $1 billion, now that the state has given the final go-ahead to pick up most of the tab.

Gov. George E. Pataki, a Republican, was expected to sign a bill last week clarifying the terms of a deal that will allow the Buffalo school district to issue bonds through the Erie County Industrial Development Agency, a public agency that works to revitalize the area’s struggling economy.

The original plan to overhaul Buffalo’s schools was approved in 2000, but the state legislature had to approve a second bill earlier this month to clarify the financing mechanism in the first bill before the project could go forward.

Under the final plan, the state will pay for about 93 percent of the project’s costs through the bonds issued by the district, beginning with a $175 million bond that will finance the first phase of the work. The deal is unique in the state in that the Buffalo district will lease all its school facilities to the Erie County agency for the next 20 years, then the agency will lease those facilities back to the school district.

“This will be a complete renovation of all our buildings with no additional cost to the local taxpayer,” said Roy W. Rogers, the 47,000-student Buffalo district’s chief operating officer.

The district’s top priorities will be to completely renovate nine schools, upgrade science labs, make schools more energy-efficient, and wire for technology in several dozen other schools. The district, which has declining enrollments, recently decided to renovate fewer schools than originally planned.

The average age of Buffalo’s schools is more than 70 years, said Paul G. Buchanan, a district school board member who also sits on the state’s school building committee. Many are in bad shape because of deferred maintenance and a lack of renovations and upgrades.

“With our schools being so old, many don’t have the electrical capacity to put computers in the classroom,” Mr. Buchanan said. Another problem, he added, is that the state’s science assessments require laboratory work, and some district schools do not even have labs.

The deal is a much-needed bright spot on the district’s otherwise gloomy fiscal front. The state and the Buffalo city schools are looking for ways to significantly cut their education budgets because of revenue shortfalls. Mr. Buchanan said the construction costs are still justified because the state is bearing the bulk of the costs, and the money could not be used for other purposes.

Assembly Majority Leader Paul A. Tokasz, a Democrat who represents Buffalo and the surrounding area in the legislature’s lower house, sponsored the most recent legislation.

“In light of the serious fiscal problems facing our city, this legislation is critical to ensuring the safety of our schoolchildren and the viability of the Buffalo school district,” he said in a statement.

‘A Positive Position’

Once the nucleus for a regional manufacturing economy, Buffalo has seen its population drop from about 550,000 residents to 300,000 over the past three decades. School enrollment has steadily declined as well.

As part of the facilities plan, the school district is creating a strategy to deal with school enrollments, which are projected to continue a gradual decline in the next decade.

Since a desegregation order was lifted in the mid-1990s, the district has introduced a new program of school choice that, instead of assigning students to schools, divides the district into three boroughs and allows parents to choose any school within their borough.

Under the state construction plan, Buffalo will be authorized to build up to six new schools, but the plan will allow district officials to decide whether they need those schools and where they might be located, Mr. Buchanan said.

Buffalo now has about 70 public school buildings, with space for up to 65,000 students. It will close five facilities this year, and will likely close five to 10 more in coming years.

The district is also planning to restore several facilities listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Mr. Buchanan said. One grand old high school, for instance, will undergo a $25 million renovation to incorporate a curriculum centered around technology. In addition, the district will catalog and preserve some significant artwork in some of those schools.

The district has already hired architects to draw plans for the first phase of the renovations and a private contractor to manage the construction details.

“We want to be in a position where, when there is an upturn in the economy, we have state-of-the-art facilities,” Mr. Buchanan said.

Related Tags:

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar How Pandemic Tech Is (and Is Not) Transforming K-12 Schools
The COVID-19 pandemic—and the resulting rise in virtual learning and big investments in digital learning tools— helped educators propel their technology skills to the next level. Teachers have become more adept at using learning management
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Building Teacher Capacity for Social-Emotional Learning
Set goals that support adult well-being and social-emotional learning: register today!


Content provided by Panorama
Jobs October 2021 Virtual Career Fair for Teachers and K-12 Staff
Find teaching jobs and other jobs in K-12 education at the EdWeek Top School Jobs virtual career fair.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Tiny Wrists in Cuffs: How Police Use Force Against Children
An investigation finds children as young as 6 and a disproportionate amount of Black children have been handled forcibly by police officers.
15 min read
Jhaimarion, 10, reacts as he listens to his mother, Krystal Archie talking with an Associated Press reporter in Chicago on Sept. 23, 2021. Archie’s three children were present when police, on two occasions, just 11 weeks apart, kicked open her front door and tore through their home searching for drug suspects. She’d never heard of the people they were hunting. Her oldest child, Savannah was 14 at the time; her youngest, Jhaimarion, was seven. They were ordered to get down on the floor.
Jhaimarion, 10, reacts as he listens to his mother, Krystal Archie talking with an Associated Press reporter in Chicago on Sept. 23, 2021. Archie’s three children were present when police, on two occasions, just 11 weeks apart, kicked open her front door and tore through their home searching for drug suspects. She’d never heard of the people they were hunting. Her oldest child, Savannah was 14 at the time; her youngest, Jhaimarion, was seven. They were ordered to get down on the floor.
Nam Y. Huh/AP
Education Gunman in 2018 Parkland School Massacre Pleads Guilty
A jury will decide whether Nikolas Cruz will be executed for one of the nation’s deadliest school shootings.
3 min read
Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, wipe away tears as their son's name is read aloud during Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's guilty plea on all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Dworet's son, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was killed in the massacre.
Annika Dworet and her husband, Mitch Dworet, wipe away tears as their son's name is read aloud during Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooter Nikolas Cruz's guilty plea on all 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder in the 2018 shootings, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. The Dworet's son, Nicholas Dworet, 17, was killed in the massacre.
Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP
Education Briefly Stated: October 20, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Gunman in Parkland School Massacre to Plead Guilty
The gunman who killed 14 students and three staff members at a Florida high school will plead guilty to their murders, his attorneys said.
4 min read
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is sworn in before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school.
Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz is sworn in before pleading guilty, Friday, Oct. 15, 2021, at the Broward County Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on all four criminal counts stemming from his attack on a Broward County jail guard in November 2018, Cruz's lawyers said Friday that he plans to plead guilty to the 2018 massacre at a Parkland high school.
Amy Beth Bennett/South Florida Sun Sentinel via AP