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Whitaker Talks Former School Uses

Dr. Kevin Whitaker, Jamestown Public Schools superintendent, said the former Rogers Elementary School could be put to use for the district. P-J file photo

The former Rogers Elementary School may have a new lease on life thanks to a proposed capital project in the Jamestown Public Schools district.

Since the elementary school’s closure, it has housed the short-lived Success Academy and now houses the TEAM program. Dr. Kevin Whitaker, Jamestown Public Schools superintendent, told board members that the building could serve a purpose for the district both during and after the capital project.

In the short term, the Success Academy could be a place where students are relocated while work is being done on other schools in the district as part of the capital project. That may allow the district to get state aid for improvements to the building that will help in longer-term uses.

“At the Success Academy I was sitting in on a conversation last year with Bret Apthorpe (former district superintendent) and, at the time, (state Education Commissioner Beth) Berlin and she was very strong that that was not an aidable space. That’s why with the Success Academy, if it’s a swing space maybe there’s something different that can occur. Before we put money into it or make an obligation to have that as a permanent part, I’d like to know where we stand on aid.”

Alyssa Catlin, an architect working on the district’s construction project, said the problem is the Success Academy doesn’t have a BEDS number with the state, which makes it ineligible for state aid for building projects. State building aid is possible for permanent instructional spaces, but not temporary instructional spaces.

“Currently there is not aid associated with that building but I think this is a great idea and worth bringing to SED’s attention to see if that would generate aid.” Catlin said.

Paul Abbott, board president, said he had been told during a New York State School Boards Association workshop on construction and building projects that such a project can receive state aid. The confusion on using state building aid on the Success Academy led Abbott to give Catlin a suggestion for her conversations with the state Education Department.

“Obviously, it depends on who you talk to,” Abbott said. “So, get it in writing.”

Whitaker said the district hasn’t given up on long-term uses for the Success Academy building either. There have been suggestions about partnerships with BOCES or expanding the TEAM program in the building as well.

“Ideas with BOCES also are additional other programs, programs our kids could be interested in that we could have kids from other nearby school districts come there rather than travel to the north side of the county,” Whitaker said. “Long term, those are some of the things we’re pursuing. Short-term, it could be swing space for the construction and the TEAM program.”

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