Johnstown school district approves plan to reopen Knox School

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JOHNSTOWN — The Greater Johnstown School District will reopen the Knox Building for student instruction in time for the 2023-2024 school year, with the site set to house students in grades five through seven.

The newly renamed Knox Middle School, which currently houses three pre-K classes, previously hosted grades seven and eight before those grade levels were reassigned to the high school following the 2020 school year in a cost-saving move.

The Johnstown Board of Education approved the Knox reopening on Feb. 16 along with additional grade reconfigurations that will see pre-K through first grade housed at Pleasant Avenue Primary Elementary School, second through fourth grade at Warren Street Intermediate Elementary School and grades eight through 12 at Johnstown High School.

“The current configuration of our grade levels is not sustainable, nor is it congruent with the district’s vision to promote itself as the natural regional choice for families to enroll their children for a first class education,” Johnstown Superintendent Dr. William Crankshaw said in a statement. “The district has not seen the financial benefits that seemed to be the backbone of the 2020 decision to close Knox. We are literally bursting at the seams in each of our buildings, and have had to be creative to find adequate space for instruction. At Warren Street, we’ve had to convert a locker room into a classroom and currently hold band practice in the cafeteria. Our staff and students deserve a space that prioritizes education and reopening Knox for grades five through seven helps us achieve that goal.”

The grade realignment proposal presented by Crankshaw and approved by the school board was crafted to reflect findings of the district’s Shared Decision Making Ad Hoc Committee and the district’s leadership team.

The Knox Building currently houses the district’s administrative, business and human resource offices, which are now in the process of being moved to the high school. The informational technology department will move from Knox to Warren Street, with the district’s facilities headquarters remaining at Knox.

“The Shared Decision Making Committee worked exactly like it should,” Crankshaw said in a statement. “We had facilitated discussions and participated in brainstorming sessions where everyone had the opportunity for input. We could not, and should not, make this kind of decision alone. It required analyzing the plan from every angle and understanding how it would affect things like transportation, traffic flow, food service, teacher certifications, age-appropriate socialization, extracurricular participation and special education needs for our students. I’m confident that we have come up with a plan that addresses those concerns and ensures that our district continues on a path towards continuous improvement and its vision of excellence.”

The district is awaiting New York State Education Department approval for the Knox reopening plan, with the grade reconfigurations for all four district schools set to commence with the start of the new school year in September.

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