EDUCATION: School 16’s fate is up in the air

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.

One comment

  1. bonnie cannan · · Reply

    I attended the meeting regarding the future of school 16 last Tuesday. Among other points made by parents and community activists, one of the on-going problems with the whole issue of school closings is that the process is heavily flawed. Any proposed change with schools which are viewed as key to communities should require at least a year’s period of time in which all stakeholders should come together to thoroughly review any proposed change/closures, identify and make recommendations related to any programatic or school building issues as well as other factors identified by families. Proposals to maintain the school to prevent closure should be seriously discussed and be the first option. The process should be open to the community at large with monthly updates resulting in a public hearing that has months notice not merely a few days. There is no way any meaningful solutions or options can be completed in the current manner that is being used with little time for the community affected to come together and evaluate an important decision as to whether or not to close a school. There are other models that require such mandated process used in New York. When the state wanted to close institutions for the disabled parents, community activists, workers all came together to advocate for de-institutionalization but to do so in a manner that would not dump people as had been done with the closure of institutions for the mentally ill several years before. Pressure was placed on the state legislature to enact laws that required at least a years notification prior to closing as well as direct involvement of the legislature when a closing was being considered. The result was that much of the de-institutionalization of persons with disabilities avoided the earlier experience of dumping. Let’s ask for the same rights for schools , the students and families that depend on them. Bonnie

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