Rochester City School Superintendent Bolgen Vargas announced he wants to close five schools. The plan comes soon after Vargas hired former deputy mayor Patricia Malgieri, who once wrote up a plan to consolidate schools when she worked for Center for Governmental Research, as his assistant.
The schools on the list have been targeted in the past: #10, #16, #22, #25, and #36. With the exception of #10, they’re in the poorest neighborhoods in the city and have terrible test results. The district closed #10 before – when it was #37 – but in true RCSD fashion, couldn’t resist opening it back up. School #10’s program would be moved to another building.
There’s no doubt the district has to consolidate space, with enrollment declining by more than 5,000 students over the last decade, according to the Democrat and Chronicle. Over the last decade, the district has not done a good job consolidating space, frequently backing off closure plans in the face of community protest.
It’s troubling so many students have been disrupted in recent years. The district has closed failing schools and reopened them as something else, a model Vargas says no longer works. The district has also temporarily relocated hundreds of students as their buildings are renovated.
One could argue it’s the program that matters, not the physical space. But I disagree. School buildings are important anchors in neighborhoods. The schools targeted for closure are beautiful old buildings, with natural wood everywhere, built in shelves, glass cases, and wood floors. Why is it schools are never part of the historic preservation debate in Rochester?
It sounds like the district is trying to include the stakeholders in the decision-making, by scheduling a number of meetings. It will be interesting to see if this sparks major controversy.