BOCES will lease entire Pine Hill Education Center building

File photo of Pine Hill Education Center. (Cheektowaga Chronicle)
File photo of Pine Hill Education Center. (Cheektowaga Chronicle)

CHEEKTOWAGA – Erie 1 BOCES recently finalized a five-year lease agreement with the Cheektowaga Central School District to take over the Pine Hill Education Center at 1635 E. Delavan Avenue at the start of the 2018-2019 school year.

Justin DeMartin, Director of Erie 1 BOCES Exceptional Education Programs and Services, says they’re refocusing their program offerings to meet the needs of their student’s uniquenesses.

The new program at Pine Hill, EdgeAcademy, will focus on five different pathways – Art, Business, Drama, Music, and Career and Technical Education.

Administrators from 19 component and non-component schools will send select 9-12th-grade regent bound students to the program.

“We’re expecting building wide student population numbers to be around 150. It is a mix, we’ll mainly have general education students, however, some students are classified with [Individualized Educational Plans] which were determined by their district’s [Committee on Special Education],” said Mr. DeMartin.  “As a BOCES we’re always looking to be innovated and be on the edge which is why we call it EdgeAcademy. We really just look for something different that’s just not out there right now.”

He says BOCES toyed around with the idea of a “Fame” high school because they saw their students were very hands-on, they’re very theatrical and very artistic.

“This will not only spark their interest but give them an edge on what other students may not be receiving in this area.  We are so focused on the academics – and that is still our focus – but we want to give them something else that’s going to draw them back into school because a lot of them are school avoiders sometimes.  So bringing them into a school where they’re going to be able to have an interest and have something that allows them to display their skill set is really what we’re focusing on here,” added Mr. DeMartin.

Currently, Pine Hill offers a nontraditional education for students whose needs cannot be met in a traditional, special education, or vocational school.  The building focuses on smaller class size, creative and individualized teaching approaches, and a greater awareness of the social/emotional needs of the student.

Mary Morris, Superintendent of the Cheektowaga Central School District, says it created four committees in the fall to address the needs of the students during the transition.

“One was the Student Transition Committee that was comprised of teachers, counselors, social workers, administrators, and parents. Many activities are planned. All of the K-8 students will return to newly created district classes as well as most high school students. The out of district students will most likely return to their home districts. We have a handful of students who will stay at Pine Hill in the BOCES program. Each placement decision was made via individual meetings with the student, their parents, and their teachers,” said Ms. Morris.

The program will begin in September after Cheektowaga Central completes a capital improvement project at the building.  The project is expected to commence once students start their summer break in June.

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