Salamanca schools to move alt ed program to former St. Pat’s

The former St. Patrick’s School on River Street will once again be housing classes for local students when the Salamanca City Central School District’s alternative education Warrior Academy program begins there in its new home this fall.

SALAMANCA — The Salamanca City Central School District’s newest incarnation of an alternative education program, Warrior Academy, will soon have a new home at the former St. Patrick’s School on River Street.

The Board of Education on Aug. 6 approved a lease agreement with L.R. Hoag Development Company to lease a portion of the premises at 79 River St. for the comprehensive education program.

“In June, the State Education Department approved our request that we submitted around January or February to formalize the Warrior Academy as an alternative school,” said Dr. Mark Beehler, assistant superintendent for Academic Services.

Once that was finalized, Beehler said they need to find somewhere with more space to house all the classes the program would offer. That’s just what the former Catholic school building had.

The lease is in effect from the first of this August through July 31, 2021.

“We met with Mr. Hoag, who has made some modifications to the old St. Pat’s school,” Beehler said. “We identified four spaces that are essentially equivalent to four classrooms.”

Two of the spaces the district would use are large, open classrooms that Beehler said would be used for direct instruction. The other two spaces would be broken up into smaller spaces and used for counseling, tutoring, adult and student GED classes, long-term out-of-school tutoring and in-school tutoring.

“One of those rooms we identify will also be used as a training space,” Beehler added. “While it’s fine during the day, when we have trainings or in-services that use the LGI, we end up sometimes displacing students from here. We just don’t have a space on campus where we can do training without being interrupted.”

In 2018, the school district initiated a pilot program and began the alternative education classes, what was informally referred to as the Warrior Academy, Beehler said.

“That was housed at the old Jefferson (High) School,” he said. “We had one room that we rented from Cattaraugus Community Action.”

Although it was suitable at the time, Beehler said the program quickly outgrew the facility by winter. He said the program became bigger with more students attending while CCA eventually needed the spaces the school district was using.

“We had informal access to their cafeteria and another office space that wasn’t be used,” he said. “CCA increased the level of personnel they had there, so they began to use those spaces. We found ourselves exceptionally confined, space wise.”

School board member Sue Fries asked Beehler how much of the St. Pat’s building the district would occupy. He said Warrior Academy would take up about a third of the rooms, due to the remaining spaces already being occupied by Head Start, a dance studio and a karate dojo, among other uses, as well as a gym the district could use.

Board member Kerry John expressed curiosity about how the district would feed students without a cafeteria. Beehler said the district would bring meals over from the high school as needed.

“There is a small kitchen area, but we don’t intend on having a use for that,” he said. The former cafeteria was renovated into the dojo.

“What are we doing about security over there?” John also asked. “Here, when people visit, they have to go through the Raptor,” he said, referring to the district’s Raptor Technology visitor management system.

Beehler said all the locks for the building would be modified and the district would be installing a camera system to monitor the spaces. He said there would be only one main entrance for people to enter and a new wall would separate the Warrior Academy rooms from the rest of the building.

“As a school, they will have to have the same practices as we have,” Beehler added. “We’ll have to have a safety plan, all the security measures that we have that are typical for us.”

Although visits would be minimal, he said all the policies and practices for the whole district are followed.

“I like that everything that they’ve put in (the lease agreement),” John added. “From the trash removal to the snow removal, it’s all included.”

(Contact managing editor Kellen Quigley at kquigleysp@gmail.com)

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