What used to be a Buffalo public school building will be reopened this fall for an expanding local charter school. Monday morning, officials with the Buffalo Academy of Science Charter School explained their plans for the former School 40 on Clare Street.
The charter school currently educates students in fifth grade and seventh through twelfth grades. BuffSci, as it's known more casually, will add Kindergarten and sixth grade this fall. Those new classes, as well as grades five, seven and eight will move into the new building upon completion of renovations.
The following year, school officials explained, grades one through four will join them. The current building on Franklin Street will continue to host high school grades.
"With this expansion, the number of students also increased from 400 to 540. Next year it's going to be 640. In three years, the students will reach to 840," said BuffSci director Joseph Polat.
There is currently a waiting list of 242 students, according to school officials.
"Being able to expand downwards to Kindergarten and grow our students is really an amazing opportunity," said Kathryn Bundy, director of the middle school. "It means we're getting our students when they're young and really ready to learn and open to ideas."
The former School 40 is located in Buffalo's Fillmore District. Bundy said the charter school wants to work with families in the surrounding neighborhoods to provide community service and build up the neighborhood.
Buffalo Common Councilmember David Franczyk, who represents the Fillmore District, was present to congratulate BuffSci on the acquisition of the building. He explained the school was selected following a competitive process involving numerous institutions that also had plans to reopen the building as a school.
"You had the strongest application, the best plan, best for the City of Buffalo and its children," said Franczyk to those in attendance.
Parents were also present, including Star Hudson. She explained her son dreaded attending his previous school and it reflected in his poor academic performance. That changed, she said, when her son was selected by lottery to enroll in BuffSci.
"I can tell you that, within this past year, my child went from someone who was very upset, and didn't want to go to school and his grades were failing, to a child that is now on the merit roll," Hudson said. "He's excited about school. He loves all the opportunities that are given to him, all the different clubs and activities, to the teachers."
Renovations are currently underway. The building, built in the early 1970s, is still structurally sound, officials said. Currently, work is being done to update the mechanicals. When asked if there were concerns about asbestos, project architect Tommaso Briatico explained that there is one confined area where it may be present, it is not an area that will be disturbed nor pose a threat to students.
"We're not going be touching those," he said. "What we're doing is repairing the furnace and the boiler system and all of the unit ventilators. We have unit ventilators in each room to bring in fresh air and to heat and monitor that air."
The school's first day of the 2017-2018 academic year is August 29.