BY TIM LOUIS MACALUSO
The situation at School 16 has many residents in the city’s southwest neighborhoods re-thinking their relationship with the Rochester school district, neighborhood leaders say. Residents are holding a meeting tonight — Wednesday, August 29 — to discuss the situation.
The Rochester school board approved closing School 16 for this school year for much-needed repairs — moving School 16 students to Freddie Thomas High School. It’s not certain, however, if School 16’s students will ever come back to the building.
Tonight’s meeting will focus on recommending improvements to other schools in the neighborhood as district officials plan for the second phase of the schools modernization program, says DeWain Feller, president of the 19th Ward Community Association.
Residents don’t want to be blindsided by a future school closing, Feller says, and they should have a say in which schools are repaired and remain open.
What is becoming clear to many residents is that schools are more than buildings, says Joan Roby-Davison, director of Sector 4 Community Development Corporation. The health of a neighborhood is often linked to its schools, she says.
“Neighborhood groups tend to focus more on events impacting their residents, issues like crime, problem properties, and speeding cars,” she says. But schools are just as important, Roby-Davison says, and closing them impacts residents emotionally.
But the problem some neighborhoods have is a result of the district’s school choice program, says longtime 19th Ward resident Bill Sullivan. An open enrollment-style program often dissolves parental involvement in some city neighborhood schools, he says, because parents tend to devote their support to their child’s school, he says.
The challenge is getting more parents and families comfortable with sending their child to a neighborhood school, Feller says, so they don’t feel compelled to move out. But getting to that point requires greater involvement in education issues at the neighborhood level, he says.
Tonight’s meeting is at 6 p.m. in the SW Community Center, 275 Dr. Samuel McCree Way.