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Robert Morris School

City schools to explore returning students to the Robert Morris building

By Howard B. Owens

It has been seven years since public school students cracked open a textbook at the Robert Morris building on Union Avenue in Batavia but the Batavia City School District superintendent is thinking it's time for that to change.

Anibal Soler Jr. suggested to the Board of Trustees on Monday night, along with a facilities consultant who made a presentation during the Zoom conference meeting, that Robert Morris is being underutilized; that there are space constraints elsewhere in the district, particularly at the middle school; and without students at Robert Morris, the building is a financial drain on the district.

"We wanted to throw something out there to get your mind working," Soler told the trustees. "We know we’ll have some fiscal challenges but to maintain a building that we don’t get anything for and we have to keep finding tenants as we do at Robert Morris, I think we have to start thinking about that, especially when we know the middle school is extremely packed right now."

In 2012, city schools consolidated their five schoolhouses into four -- Jackson Elementary, John Kennedy Primary, the middle school and the high school -- with Robert Morris becoming home to a couple of school programs with space available to tenants. The building has been generating $100,000 annually in lease payments for the district. That revenue will drop to $36,000 in the coming fiscal year. One tenant currently in the building is leaving once its lease expires in June. 

Meanwhile, because there are no students in the building, the district cannot receive state aid for any maintenance or improvements needed on the structure, Soler said.

The future of Robert Morris came up during a presentation by Richard Little and Brian Cieslinski, of SEI Design Group. The architectural firm was hired by the district to fulfill a state mandate to do a facilities review every five years.

The state requires each school district to go through these periodic reviews because identification of issues at school facilities helps the state's education department budget for aid to school districts.

SEI identified more than $40 million in maintenance issues that need to be addressed within the next five years.

“This looks daunting as far as a $40 million sum," Cieslinski said. "I would tell you, statistically, (compared to) a lot of our school districts this is actually a very good list. You’re maintaining your buildings very well."

The list includes items such as:

  • Jackson School
    • Improving accessibility to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act
    • Replacing rooftop heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units
    • Installing an emergency generator
  • John Kennedy School
    • Improving drainage
    • Replacing broken or cracked concrete slabs
    • Accessibility
    • Moisture mitigation in the gym
    • Upgrades to the alarm and PA systems
  • Middle School
    • Exterior brick restoration
    • Moisture in the gym walls
    • Accessibility
    • Fire barrier in the auditorium
    • Installing an emergency generator
  • High School
    • Locker room renovations
    • A boiler upgrade
    • Moisture mitigation
    • Lighting upgrades
    • A new public address system
  • Robert Morris
    • Brick repairs
    • Window replacements
    • Accessibility
    • An upgrade to the fire alarm system and PA
    • An emergency generator

SEI delivered to the school district a thick binder that listed these items and many more that were ranked from 1 to 5 by priority. It will be up to district officials to figure out how best to prioritize these items over the next five years.

Board President Alice Ann Benedict asked if the conversion of Robert Morris back into a school is something that will be part of the upcoming budget discussions. Soler said, no. The conversion and reassignment of students will be a significant planning issue. It will take a lot longer than a couple of months to pull together and it also needs to involve discussion with the board, administrators, teachers, parents, and other community members.

Little did present one suggestion under consideration: Moving two classes of students out of the middle school -- possibly to Robert Morris, and then relocating district offices to the middle school. That would free up space at the high school, possibly for expanded STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) education, as well as accommodate students in the future who might do better with remote learning even in a post-COVID-19 education world.

Soler was quick to emphasize that is just one idea and that more ideas need to be explored with community input.

Child care center opening at Robert Morris

By Howard B. Owens

Press release:

Imagination Station Child Care & Preschool will be opening its third location in Batavia on June 3. The newest center will be located at the Robert Morris Elementary School, in the heart of Batavia. The center is centrally located and easy to access from Main Street or Route 98 (Oak Street).    

This family owned and operated child care center opened in Alden, where owners Erik and Kelly Kronbeck reside and are a part of the community. Since opening the Alden location in January, 2011, they have opened a second location in Le Roy, and are excited to be adding a third location to service the needs within the surrounding communities.  

Imagination Station contributes its success to their high standards.

Owner and operator Kelly Kronbeck said “Our program encompasses everything that we wanted as parents, a safe and nurturing environment, one that’s high quality and is professionally run. Of course the teacher in me also wanted one that was academically based and stimulating for our children.” 

Prior to opening her first center, Kelly Kronbeck worked for one of the leading child care centers in Buffalo and taught second grade in Glens Falls, which is where her passion for teaching and importance of early childhood education blossomed.                   

Imagination Station provides care for families with children 6 weeks to 12-years-old. Full-time, part-time, and flexible schedules are welcomed, along with public assistance. 

Imagination Station is offering its new families the first week free when they enroll for the Batavia center prior to June 3rd! Tours are offered daily during operating hours and in the evenings by appointment at one of their other locations. Visit for more information or call 585-768-8025 to set up a tour today!

Batavia woman finds Robert Morris playground a good fit for her workout routine

By Howard B. Owens

We tend to think of playgrounds as just places for children, right?

Well, there's something starting in New York City and Buffalo to change that -- the cities are building playgrounds designed to attract adults in a social environment focused on physical fitness.

As a writer for Buffalo Rising put it, "The concept is so simple that I can't believe that it hasn't surfaced all across America."

There are no known plans to build an adult playground in Batavia, but one local woman has discovered an existing playground that goes a long way in filling the void, and she thinks other adults should join her in putting it to good use.

Batavia resident Nancy Gilmartin-Marchitte said she's been using the playground at the former Robert Morris School for several months for her own exercise routine and having a blast.

She and her husband like to run on the track at Woodward Field, and one day she spotted the rings at the playground and, with her love of gymnastics, she thought it would be fun to try them out.

From that initial experiment, she discovered the playground offered her several different fun and useful exercises.

"After coming here and doing my routines, I came to realize there are adult playgrounds all over now," said the 36-year-old Gilmartin-Marchitte.

In June 2011, Robert Morris opened the new playground paid for by a grant won from Pepsi.

Now, Robert Morris is no longer a school, and though the playground is still owned by the school district, it is open to the community, Business Administrator Scott Rozanski confirmed today.

"We made the decision to leave the playground for community use," Rozanski said.

While adult use hasn't yet been contemplated by district officials, he sees no reason adults couldn't exercise there so long as they didn't prevent children from playing and helped keep the equipment in good working order.

"I would expect an adult to use wisdom and not do anything that would damage the equipment," Rozanski said.

Gilmartin-Marchitte said she's worked up a whole routine for herself that, by making it a rigorous workout, not only exercises her arms, legs and torso, it also provides cardiovascular benefits.

Her routine includes, among other things, chin-ups, exercises on the rings (her favorite), balance walks, using the swing for her abs and the parallel bars.

"Going to the playground a few times a week and exercising on the rings and chin-up bar is not only a good exercise, but brings out the little girl in me," Gilmartin-Marchitte said.

Photos: Saying goodbye to Robert Morris, hello to new schools for next year

By Howard B. Owens

It was a ceremony of celebration more than remembrance as the students and staff of Robert Morris School said goodbye to their decades-old institution and walked into a new future of consolidated classes at three Batavia city schools.

"They're excited and they're ready," said Robert Morris Principal Diane Bonarigo of the students who walked out of the doors of Robert Morris for the last time today. "They'r in a very good place. It's important that we close our year knowing that they will be looking forward to going to their new school next year."

The district's consolidation plan will make Jackson a pre-K through first-grade school and John Kennedy will contain classes for second, third and fourth grades. Fifth-graders will move to Batavia Middle School.

Bonarigo said students felt more comfortable with the transition after a series of open houses where they ran into friends from other schools that they met through sports and other activities and realized they will now all be in the same school.

"We will be one city school family," Bonarigo said.

Transition ceremony for Robert Morris 'family' on Flag Day at Van Detta Stadium

By Billie Owens

Press release:

Robert Morris Elementary School in Batavia will be sharing the limelight with the old "red, white, and blue" on Flag Day -- June 14th. The students, as well as the faculty, staff and administration will participate in a joyful ceremony at Van Detta Stadium celebrating the transition each of them will be making in the upcoming 2012-2013 school year.

Robert Morris Elementary School will be closing its doors as of July 1st, and the Robert Morris Family will be turning their focus toward the future. The celebration will take place at 1:45 p.m., and is opened to anyone who would like to attend.

The Robert Morris Family would like to extend a special invitation to any, and all, of the staff/faculty from Robert Morris's past to join in the celebration. Robert Morris would like their students to remember that just as it is important to know where it is they are going, it is equally as important in knowing where it is they have been, and the school's history is rich with individuals who have helped make Robert Morris what it is today.

If you are a retired Robert Morris staff member, or a former Robert Morris student, and you are planning to join us on June 14, please gather at the entrance of Van Detta Stadium, by the large parking lot between 1:30 and 1:45 p.m. and someone will be there to greet you.

(The stadium is located at 120 Richmond Ave. in the City of Batavia.)

Photo: Playground construction at Robert Morris

By Howard B. Owens

Construction has begun on the new playground for Robert Morris School. The funds for the new playground were the result of the school applying for and winning a grant from Pepsi Co. Today, crews are taking care of heavy-constructions issues, such as stone bedding and grading. Next Saturday, teachers and parents will get involved in installing equipment.

Photos: Studio Day at Robert Morris School

By Howard B. Owens

It's Studio Day at Robert Morris School -- a day when community members come into the school to share what they know with students, whether it be about fire fighting, skating, mask making, tennis or just having fun.

Teacher Liz Mundell said the day exposes students to career options, different kinds of hobbies or a chance for a little extra play.

"It's a different way for them to learn rather than just what they would find in a book," Mundell said.

Robert Morris, Byron-Bergen make Top 10 in Pepsi Challenge

By Howard B. Owens

Two Genesee County schools are among 10 finalists to receive $50,000 grants from Pepsi Co. following a competition among thousands of grant proposal submitted to the soft drink company.

Supporters of the projects were asked to express that support through online voting and text messages in the national competition.

"We couldn't have done it without the team effort of the entire community," said Robert Morris Principal Diane Bonarigo.

Robert Morris applied for a grant to fund construction of a new playground.

The Byron-Bergen Elementary School Playground Committee also finished in the top 10.

Next, Bonarigo said, Pepsi will review the grant applications again and make sure all of the paperwork is in order. She said she expects official confirmation of the grant in a couple of weeks.

"We are very excited to be finalists," said Bonarigo. "The students are excited."

She thanked the whole community for their support and the local media for promoting the competition.

Down to the wire: Robert Morris School needs votes!

By Billie Owens

The parents, students, teachers, friends, administrators and neighbors of Robert Morris Elementary School in Batavia need your vote now more than ever in order to win a $50,000 grant from Pepsi.

They want to build a new playground. They are in 14th place and need to get into the Top 10 by Jan. 2 in order to win.

You can text a vote to Pepsi (73774) and in the message put 104607.

Photos: Robert Morris teachers try to get more votes for playground

By Howard B. Owens

More than a dozen Robert Morris School teachers withstood subfreezing temperatures and light snow last night in an effort to garner more votes in the Pepsi Challenge. If the school gets enough support, Pepsi will donate $50,000 for a new playground.

Teachers were handing out handbills to passing drivers and car passengers with information on how to vote, plus the school's computer lab was open for anybody who needed help voting.

Santa in the picture is Paul Bernardi, of Pauly's Pizza.

To vote:

1. You can go to, where you can find more information -- including a video made by students, staff and parents -- and vote by clicking the "Vote for this idea" tab (upper right).

2. You can also vote via text messaging. Simply text to 73774 and enter 104607 in the message.

Robert Morris School getting closer to Pepsi grant; needs your votes

By Billie Owens

Here's a news release from the Friends of Robert Morris Elementary School.

Robert Morris Elementary School is in the top 20 going for a $50,000 Pepsi Refresh Grant for the month of December.

We need to be in the top 10 by Dec. 31 and could use your help. Please vote for us by texting to: 73774 and in the message box type 104607, and hit send. It's that easy.

You can also vote through Facebook and through the link: www.refresheverything/

The grant money will be used for a new playground. It is truly going to benefit the entire community of Batavia, making it handicap accessible and friendlier for our younger children.

What a great and easy way to earn 50K without a cost to our taxpayers. Please help us support our children of this community. Vote today and everday (each person can vote 3x per day Facebook, text and refresh link).

Thank you for your continued support!

Your Friends of Robert Morris School

Robert Morris ranked 20th for Pepsi Refresh Project and still seeking votes; top 10 ideas win $50k grant

By Timothy Walton

Robert Morris Elementary School is among 1,000 competitors in the Pepsi Refresh Project this month with hopes of winning a $50,000 grant to build a new playground.

Sound like a long shot? Not anymore, as Robert Morris is currently ranked 20th and they are still seeking your votes to help get them into the top 10 by the December 31st deadline.

"It's an important component and an important resource for our community as a whole" says Robert Morris principal Diane Bonarigo. "We have many families that come out and want their children to be on the playground during the day, throughout the early evening and on weekends".

Every month, Pepsi gives out $1.2 million in grant funds for worthy projects in the United States, therfore providing 12 submission periods. If a project doesn't win one month, it can be resubmitted, according to the website rules. And if it made the top 100, it will automatically be rolled into the next month's competition.

This month, there were 1,096 ideas submitted. But only the first 1,000 are considered

"We need a new playground because our swings are broken" says one student. "We need new monkey bars" adds another, and a parent states "it's not handicap accessible right now".


1. You can go to, where you can find more information -- including a video made by students, staff and parents -- and vote by clicking the "Vote for this idea" tab (upper right).

2. You can also vote via text messaging. Simply text to 73774 and enter 104607 in the message.

3. If you have a Facebook account, you can enter your Facebook username and password to cast your vote (and also share with friends).

(People can go online and vote up to 10 times a day per person, per IP address/account.)

Photo: Robert Morris Principal Diane Bonarigo- excerpt from contest submission video)

Robert Morris School seeks votes for $50,000 grant to improve playground

By Daniel Crofts

This story has been updated, see below.

Robert Morris Elementary School is among 1,000 competitors in the Pepsi Refresh Project this month -- and if all goes well, they'll be one of the grant recipients. They want you to cast votes for them -- that's how the winners are chosen.

The school, located at 80 Union St. in Batavia, submitted a project idea to build a better, environmentally friendly playground there.

Each month, Pepsi ponies up $1.2 million in grant funds for worthy projects in the United States. Thus, there are 12 submission periods. If a project doesn't win one month, it can be resubmitted, according to the website rules. And if it made the top 100, it will automatically be rolled into the next month's competition.

This month, there were 1,096 ideas submitted. But only the first 1,000 are considered and only 32 will win money. It breaks down like this: two get $250,000; 10 get $50,000; 10 get $25,000; and 10 get $5,000.

The grants fall into six categories: health and fitness; food and shelter, education; The Planet; neighborhoods; and arts and culture.

People can go online and vote up to 10 times a day per person, per IP address/account. Voting ends at the end of December. Potential winners will be notified within the first week of January. Actual winners will be posted online by mid-month.


Robert Morris School Principal Diane Bonarigo said that playground improvements -- designed by Parkitects -- are based on surveys filled out by parents, teachers and students.

Some features of the new playground would include safer and more usable equipment for kids with disabilities, equipment that is more suited for younger children, solar lighting in the evening for safety, more trees and mulch, and more opportunities for kids to get active.

Teacher Jerry Sloan said that the Playground Committee, of which he is the faculty leader, wanted this project to extend "beyond the scope of our school."

"The playground is used by the community," said teacher Jerry Sloan of the Playground Committee. "And for a lot of kids, it's one of the few available means of recreation."

"We're not just doing this for us," Bonarigo said. "We're doing it for the community. We think it will benefit (Batavia) for years to come."

1. You can go to, where you can find more information -- including a video made by students, staff and parents -- and vote by clicking the "Vote for this idea" tab (upper right).

2. You can also vote via text messaging. Simply text to 73774 and enter 104607 in the message.

3. If you have a Facebook account, you can enter your Facebook username and password to cast your vote (and also share with friends).

Photos: City firefighters talk with Robert Morris Pre-K students about fire safety

By Howard B. Owens

City firefighters were at Robert Morris School this afternoon teaching the Pre-K students about fire safety. The class time included instruction on drop-tuck-and-roll, using your "outside voice" to get a firefighter's attention, and not being afraid of the big person in the funny looking suit.

GCEDC helped pay for project that makes science fun for kids

By Billie Owens

Here's a news release from the Genesee County Economic Development Center.

Two well-known local artists are being featured on a website designed by the University at Buffalo and sponsored by the New York State Department of Labor.

Bart Dentino and Kevin Huber have been working together as "Bart & Kevin" for more than 20 years and have performed for thousands of school children across the state. They are musical and educational resident artists who have won numerous awards for their work with children.

Now the duo has completed a project which produced nine unique podcasts to help introduce science concepts to elementary students. The podcasts were created by UB and funded in part by the Genesee County Economic Development Center.

“The Sci Guys Show” is a collection of 10-15 minute podcasts that discuss topics like bioluminescence and echolocation in fun and entertaining ways.

“It’s a new style radio show with tons of sound effects and some over-the-top humor to help draw students in,” said co-creator Dentino. “And in the process, they will learn something about the sciences.”

They were piloted at Robert Morris Elementary in Batavia at the end of the school year and were well received by educators and students.

“It was great to hear positive feedback from both teachers and the kids,” said Huber said, who composed all the music heard in “The Sci Guys." The shows are free to download and include a lesson plan that can be used by teachers or parents.

The shows are available for download on the website. For more information visit:

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