Tapestry Charter School could open second location in Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- The Tapestry Charter School in Buffalo is looking to expand and that means some students could move to a new building. Administrators have drafted a plan to place kindergarten through fifth grade at former Buffalo Public School 78 on Olympic Ave.

Students in kindergarten through high school currently go to the same building on Great Arrow Dr.

“I think they do need more space,” said Cheryl Kofoed, who has a granddaughter at the school. “They have to expand and you can’t do that here.”

Administrators told News 4 they cannot build onto the Great Arrow Dr. location. It would cost about $13 million to build a new school.

“Where is that money supposed to come from?” said Joy Pepper, executive director of Tapestry Charter School. “Charters operate on five year licenses, if you go to the bank you’re not going to get that kind of financial backing.”

Relocating students to PS 78 would cost up to about $5 million.

The school wants to have about 80 students in each grade. There are currently 82 students in each high school grade. There are fewer on the middle and elementary levels. There are only about 62 students in each fifth through eighth grades and only 52 students in each kindergarten through fourth grades.

“Growing is inevitable for charter schools” said Pepper. “There’s not enough funding to keep us going at just the student body we have and so if all of us, every charter school in Western New York, is looking to add grades, or replicate, and it’s the nature of the funding model that helps drive these decisions.”

The school looked at 15 locations for the elementary level school and picked PS 78 as the new location. It has about 95,000 square feet of space.

“It was in great condition and didn’t need that much renovation,” said Pepper. “It’s in close proximity to our current location, easy on and off the highway, would make a pretty great location in addition to our school community.”

Pepper said they already have renovation plans drafted, which include encasing the asbestos discovered in the boiler room. They have also budgeted for soil cleanup, which was needed at the Great Arrow Dr. location.

Some parents still have concerns about the building.

“I see some holes in the environmental issues with that particular school, I think that it’s too close to the Thruway, that cannot change,” said one neighbor, worried about the air quality and dangerous driving around the off ramp near the school.

Other parents are worried the need for growth is a sign of instability within the school.

Genia Meyers has sons in second and fourth grades and told News 4 she hopes the academics don’t suffer in the expansion.

“Kids that age just aren’t as adaptable to change that much,” said Meyers.

Parent Judith Smyntek told News 4 the move would create a transportation headache for some parents. She has two children already in the school and another one who could enroll next year.

“To have them split would definitely be a strain for getting kids to school on time and, you know, getting them adjusted to a new routine,” said Smyntek.

The school does not bus students and have not decided if they will have a shuttle between the two schools to help parents.

Administrators said they also have not done a thorough survey with the neighbors near PS 78, who could be disrupted by the extra traffic.

The second location is only about four miles away from the current Tapestry Charter School but some parents voiced concerns over safety.

The school’s administrators provided a crime data analysis which shows during school hours within a two block radius of the school on Great Arrow, there were 70 crimes over the last year. The crimes include robbery, burglary and larceny. There were only 30 crimes near PS 78, that statistic includes assault, vehicle theft, robbery, burglary and larceny.

People living in the neighborhood spoke up saying it’s a safe neighborhood of working, middle class families.

Common Council Member Usysees Wingo is in support of the project. He released a statement that said, in part, ”The idea that the overall safety of the students would be compromised at the proposed location is inaccurate.”

Administrators told parents in a handout, Buffalo Police have also offered support “during arrival and dismissal as well as increased presence during the school day.”

The board of trustees plans to vote on the move later this week.

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