A GROUND-BREAKING ANNOUNCEMENT
Today, I was joined by numerous local leaders and representatives from the Town of Tonawanda, Village of Kenmore, Erie County Legislature, members of our Board of Education, District administrators, and our construction and architect partners as we celebrate the groundbreaking of our capital project. We are about to see transformative work taking place throughout the Ken-Ton District. This project will invest $75 million into our buildings and facilities. This will include critical maintenance work, new secured entranceways to make our schools safer, new water pipes to maximize water quality, significant alterations to pick-up and drop-off patterns, classroom additions at three elementary schools, gymnasium renovations, and lastly, a brand new state-of-the-art artificial turf field at Kenmore East High School.
This project reflects our commitment to provide our students and community with facilities that are second-to-none to match the quality of our exceptional academic programs focusing on the need to make our schools the vibrant center of our community. We are about to usher in a new era for our schools. The Capital Project is a major part of that, but there is much more to be excited about.
There is a great deal that makes Ken-Ton such a wonderful place: beautiful neighborhoods and parks, unparalleled services provided by our municipal partners in the Town and Village, of course great schools, a strong community, a thriving economy, a proud and rich history, and Ken-Ton remains an extremely affordable place to live. More than ever before, it is time for everyone to take notice of Ken-Ton. Our community is growing. We are seeing it in our local real estate market, and we are seeing it in our enrollment.
In spring of 2016, three schools in our District closed: Hamilton Elementary, Roosevelt Elementary, and Kenmore Middle. A fourth school, Jefferson Elementary, had closed just three years prior to that. At the time, enrollment projections indicated a future decline of between 1 and 2 percent each year. These projections held true for a time. Between 2013 and 2017, District enrollment was declining by an average of 1.4% each year. The next year, however, in 2018, we stabilized. Now, today, our long-term enrollment projections, which are based on a variety of factors including live birth rates and population trends, tell a different story than they did in the past. District enrollment is not projected to decline, it is projected to grow, by an average of 1.2% each year through 2030. It has taken a team of collaborative individuals to work together so that Ken-Ton is able to realize this change in trajectory. And that brings us to today’s announcement.
Today, I am excited to announce that in partnership with the YMCA, the Ken-Ton School District will be expanding our Universal Pre-Kindergarten program and will begin offering a full-day option beginning this September. We are investing in our earliest learners and our community. Our families coming out of COVID, and all the financial challenges they are enduring, will now have access to free full-day as well as free half-day UPK programming to give students an even greater head start on their academic journey.
With the concept in mind that our school facilities are the center of our communities, we are electing to house this expansion at our historic Hamilton building. This strategic move will enable us to focus on the potential for additional secondary programming at Kenmore Middle School while bringing life back to our Hamilton facility. We were not positioned for this a year ago. During this past year, there were critical developments that made this possible. New York State approved a budget to include a significant increase in UPK funding. It wasn’t until Ken-Ton was able to secure this additional funding that our dreams of resurrecting Hamilton came to fruition. By using this and other sources of funding, and by continuing our partnership with the YMCA, we are able to make this transition with minimal additional cost.
This is only the first step. This transition will enable us to explore the feasibility and sustainability of growing our programming. Hamilton being open, even in this new form of simply hosting the YMCA UPK Program, positions us as a district to take a deeper dive into future potential and possibilities. It is important to note: families that have already registered their children in the UPK Program are guaranteed Half-Day programming and can request to have their children transition from a Half-Day to a Full-Day spot. In order to guarantee this, we are asking that they submit their change request no later than Friday, June 18. The YMCA will be sending out additional information as early as this evening to those families. New families can make their request at the time of registration. Registration is open until July 23.
This is a very exciting time. Our district is experiencing a resurgence and we have many people to thank: our local leaders who have made Kenmore and the Town of Tonawanda such a desirable place to live, our elected representatives for advocating for our schools and securing additional funding, all those who made the Capital Project a reality, and of course all of our teachers, administrators and support staff who provide an education that is second to none. Your tireless efforts to support our district have enabled this historic expansion of our UPK Program and the return of students to Hamilton. This is a turning point for our community and more is coming. We are Ken-Ton Proud, we are Ken-Ton Strong, and we are Moving Ken-Ton Forward together as one team.