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Vargas proposes $625 million second phase of schools upgrades 

UPDATE:

Superintendent Bolgen Vargas has recommended closing five schools: 16, 22, 25, 36, and 37. He also wants to combine schools 1 and 10 into a newly renovated School 1 at 65 Hillside Avenue. Programs at School 30 could be closed, but the building may be used for another purpose.

Vargas recommends renovations-improvements to the following elementary schools: 6, 12, 15, 29, 43, and 44. Monroe and Jefferson high schools are also on the list. These schools are not part of the first phase of the schools modernization program, which is currently under way.

Vargas will hold the first public meeting on the plan at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, November 5, 85 Adams Street.

ORIGINAL STORY:

Rochester Superintendent Bolgen Vargas submitted a draft plan for the next phase of modernizing city schools at a special school board meeting tonight. The plan calls for spending about $625 million over 10 years, with a completion date of around 2022.

The plan recommends closing some city schools. In some cases the schools and their programs may be maintained in different locations.

The schools that made the list did so primarily due to their age and condition, Vargas said. The closings are necessary, he said, because the district's student population is declining. He said the closings would save money, but that's not what is driving his proposal.

Vargas will send a letter to parents within the next few days, informing them of the proposed changes, and he will begin meeting with school employees, as well. He will also hold 16 public meetings starting next week through February 2013 in neighborhoods throughout the district to discuss the proposal and to gather input.

The proposal does not include the schools that would be modernized, Vargas said, because he wants more input from the community and parents before identifying them.

Board members had not previewed the plan or had an opportunity to provide any input into its development.

Even though the $325 million first phase of the plan, currently in construction, involved reconfiguring many schools from K to 6 to K to 8, Vargas said he doesn't favor that model. But he said he does not recommend reversing modifications already under way.

Board member Van White stressed that the board is drafting a policy for how future school closings will be conducted, and that Vargas's plan will have to conform to that.

The draft plan was developed by a task force that included some members of the current Rochester Joint Schools Construction Board. It was not clear whether a new board would be created between the city and the school district for the next phase, or whether the planning and construction contractor would remain the same.

The project would be subject to multiple layers of approval, including the State Legislature and the State Education Department.

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