OLEAN — Students are returning to Boardmanville Elementary School, thanks to a new agreement with Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES and the building’s owner.
During a public hearing before the Zoning Board of Appeals on using an Olean City School District-owned parking lot near the former school, CA BOCES officials shared their plans to offer services for special-needs children at the campus.
Pete Ebert, principal of the building for CA BOCES, said that the agency is leasing the property from Eagle Crest Properties 14760 LLC, owned by the Pancio family of Olean, for Exceptional Education Division classroom space for children from area school districts.
He added that it is a move from the former Ivers J. Norton Elementary School on West Henley Street, where CA BOCES had been leasing rooms from Epic Church for the past five years.
“We’re very excited,” Ebert said, noting that the building, with amenities including a gymnasium for physical activity, is ideal for CA BOCES. “We’re set up very well. … It’s good to see it being used as a school and not collecting dust or being used for something we don’t want there.”
The building will have around 85 students, Ebert said, down from the 300 that went there when the building was an elementary school.
Staggered bus runs from local schools mean that bus traffic will not build up into a traffic jam-like situation previously seen at the site years ago. He added that he is working with neighbors and staff to ensure minimal disruptions in the neighborhood, like blocked driveways.
“We want to be good neighbors,” he said.
The former elementary school, built in 1924, was closed in June 2012 due to declining enrollment and a loss of state aid for the school district. In March 2013, voters approved the sale of the site to the Pancio family.
OCSD Superintendent Rick Moore said the district still owns some of the property near the school, including the parking lot and soccer field. The district is working on a license to use — as opposed to a lease for property control — the parking lot that OCSD and CA BOCES officials hope to complete by early October.
CA BOCES, a collaboration of 22 area school districts across four counties, provides instruction for students with disabilities in contained classrooms with smaller student-to-staff ratios, then charges the member districts for the services — a large portion of which is reimbursed by the state.
“We’re super excited to have this for our kids,” said CA BOCES Superintendent Scott Payne.
The ZBA unanimously approved the request, on the conditions that the license with OCSD is approved by both entities and that the request does not extend if BOCES no longer leases Boardmanville.
The approval is just one of two sought this fall. The city planning board will host a public hearing on a new site plan for the campus at 6:30 p.m. Monday in the council chambers of the Olean Municipal Building.
In addition, the Common Council may also take action to improve safety in the area.
Alderman Linda Witte, D-Ward 1, said she had heard questions about establishing a school zone speed limit reduction, which was removed after the building closed.
“I have to talk to our city attorney,” she said. “I’ll let you know when we set that into place.”