Plans by the King Center Charter School’s to buy a former city school building continue to draw fire from the King Urban Life Center. As part of our Focus on Education reporting, WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley says a strong conversation was delivered between both sides before a Buffalo Common Council Committee meeting Tuesday.
"This issue is a lot bigger than King Urban Life Center and King Charter School -- at the core this issue is about how we are going to try to build our neighborhoods and communities," said Dr. Henry Louis Taylor, director of the University at Buffalo's Center for Urban Studies.
Dr. Taylor is also a member of the board at King Urban Life Center. Taylor continues speaking out against the charter school's plans to buy the former School 71 building in the Schiller Park area and leaving behind its current Genesee Street site. Taylor said moving the school would harm the long-term mission to revitalize that East Side neighborhood. King Urban is located at the former Saint Mary of Sorrows Church at 938 Genesee Street. It is a landmark in Buffalo.
But school leaders want to expand the K-through 7th charter school to 8th grade. Principal Antoinette Rhodes said it's time to find new space were students are not separated because of a lack of space with no auditorium.
"When you are thinking about what's best for children, all we are asking is to be in one building with the necessities that everyone of us had growing up as a child -- a cafeteria, a gym, an area that students and teachers can be able to do what is necessary," said Rhodes.
The school says its cost-effective to buy the former school building outright for more than $300,000 to stop paying $167,000 a year to lease space.
But King Urban Life Center executive director David Greenman says they're willing to raise needed funds to refurbish the school space to expand on-site.
"We are willing to do whatever it takes to be their most feasible and economic option. We have the backing of the board of the KULC and also some generous benefactors," said Greenman.
Greenman testified at the Council committee Tuesday that the King Urban said it already has a $1.5 million commitment to rebuild at the site. But King charter school board president Cathy Wettllaufer said they’re not interested.
"We will not put our students in trailers. Our lease on the church building expires in June," said Wettlaufer.
The charter school will be seeking Common Council approval on purchase of the Lang Avenue building. It already signed a 'letter of intent' with the city, but the request has not arrived before lawmakers.