BY CHRISTINE CARRIE FIEN
The long-term future of School 16 will be decided in the context of a comprehensive inventory of the Rochester school district’s facilities. In the short term, however, School 16 will more than likely be closed and all students and staff relocated because of pressing problems with the building.
The school board, including Superintendent Bolgen Vargas, held a public hearing tonight to address the School 16 issue. There are “serious concerns” with the building, board member Mary Adams said. Those include: peeling paint and floor tiles and “excessive heat” in the classrooms.
Members of the public who spoke at the meeting said they welcomed the repair work, but didn’t want their school closed permanently. Abandoning the building would create an eyesore in the middle of the 19th ward, one man said.
More than one person said that the problems at School 16 were well-known and well-reported, and it’s unconscionable that the school has been neglected for so long. One of the most-cited problems is a pungent odor in a boy’s bathroom. One man said it has been that way for at least 15 years.
“How are you going to fix that bathroom?” he said. “It really does stink, and it stank 15 years ago.”
School 16 is not included in the first round of fix-ups in the district’s facilities modernization program — a $1 billion project to renovate and upgrade the city schools. Vargas said he wasn’t with the district when the FMP schedule was made and all he can do now is deal with the challenges in front of him.
Three options for School 16 have been given to the school board, but Vargas said after last night’s meeting that he would most likely recommend relocating all students and staff to another facility beginning this fall. He said he wants the board to make a decision by July 20.
On a more ominous note, Vargas said he would release a report in either September or October on the district’s space needs versus its inventory. The school district has physical facilities for 40,000 students, he said, but will soon have fewer than 30,000 students. Whether or not School 16 re-opens will be included in that report.
“We’re going to have to make some hard decisions,” he said.