It's always a tough conversation to have – the possibility of closing schools. That was the subject at the Rochester City School District headquarters Thursday night, as the superintendent of schools presented his comprehensive plan for the next ten years.
Members of the Rochester School Board have some homework to do as they begin to sift through pages of this new plan that they are seeing for the first time. It calls for possible school closings.
Based on recommendations made by a task force, Dr. Bolgen Vargas proposed spending some $625 million over the next decade to make repairs and modernize schools to bring them into the 21st century, and deliver high quality programs for students. The city school district is faced with declining enrollment, and a surplus in space.
"It's something that's a reality that we have to face. I think the tough part for us is how do we prioritize and decide which schools will be closed where. Neighborhood impact is very important, the performance of the school is something that is going to be very important to me," Vargas said.
In the draft, recommendations were made to close at least five schools. They include schools 22, 25, 30, 36, and 37. The recommendation does not propose clsoing any school building until 2015.
Dr. Vargas wants families to know, school programs would continue; however, old buildings in poor condition need to be shut down.
"It's extremely important that the community plays a role in the discussion; after all, this is their building. This is not the superintendent schools, the schools belong to the community and to the families."
This is a draft proposal, and the school board has the next three months to look it over. Board members say they're not approving anything until the community has a say in this plan. The first community meeting is scheduled for next Monday evening at 5:30 at Nathanial Rochester Community School 3 on Adams Street.
If some of these old school buildings closed, the Superintendent says the district will work closely with the city of Rochester on that. He said some of these buildings could be used as condominiums.