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Foes of closing school cite expensive improvements made

Several upset parents asked school officials Monday evening why they would consider closing a school after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to improve it in recent years.

They were told that many of the improvements were planned a decade ago, when a billion-dollar school reconstruction program wasn't dreamed of.

Schools 36 and 77 and Seneca Vocational High School were on the minds of many of the 75 residents who turned out for a community meeting in Pfc. William Grabiarz School 79 on Lawn Avenue.

Deborah Ellis, president of the Days Park Block Club, disagreed with findings of the Building Usage Committee that School 36 should be closed because it is in poor condition, with declining enrollment and without space for expansion.

"The school has gotten a new roof, new sidewalks, new lighting, handicap access and high-speed Internet access," she said. "As for declining enrollment, Hispanics are the fastest-growing population. School 36 can again be a school for special-needs kids who are learning English."

Mel Alston, associate superintendent for plant services, replied that School 36 could be expanded but would lose its play area and parking lot.

"Many renovations were made in recent years," Alston said, "but we must look at whether our school buildings will all be at a similar level of completion. If it's compared to other buildings, School 36 is not as easily raised to the same standard."

Debora Fuentes, a crossing guard and substitute teacher at School 77, asked whether its new roof and playground will be wasted if it is closed.

Alston said that "students deserve to have the best" at their school.

Scott Kirsch, a teacher and coach at Seneca Vocational High School, disagreed with the recommendation to transfer its vocational programs elsewhere and use the building for a new Math & Science School.

"I see our enrollment growing every year," he said. "During the transition, my students will be going to three different schools in three years. There's plenty of room to expand this school."

One parent asked whether the staffs of the schools about to be closed will be transferred together to another school.

"That's in our plan," said Rosalyn Taylor, assistant superintendent for school operations.

Community meetings on the proposed closings of schools will also be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday in Stanley Makowski School 99, Jefferson Avenue and Best Street, and from 9 to 11 a.m. Saturday in D'Youville-Porter School 3, 255 Porter Ave.

The Board of Education is scheduled to receive the committee's recommendations, along with public input, and vote on them Feb. 22.


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