I-Team 10 Investigation: Closed school being renovated

Posted at: 10/09/2013 6:25 PM
By: Brett Davidsen

Hundreds of thousands of dollars are being pumped into a city school district building. The problem is there are no plans to use it. 

The Rochester City School District is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to make improvements to a student drop off area at one of its school buildings. There are no students there during the day or evening, but the district says that doesn't mean there won't be in the future. So, they have gone forward with a costly interior and exterior renovation project at the school. 

On the corner of Pleasant Street and North Clinton Avenue, construction crews are busy at work.   They're adding a new bus loop, sidewalks and other improvements to the School Without Walls Foundation Academy. The pricetag is $330,000. The building isn't being used. The Rochester City School District closed the building at the end of last school year and currently has no immediate plans to re-open it.

The district says the work was included in the 2013 capital improvement program and the designs and approvals were in the works long before the decision to close the building.

Mike Schmidt, RCSD Chief of Operations, said, "With the timing issue, obviously, it wasn't picked as optimum, but I think it did provide us with an opportunity to get all the work done in a quick amount of time and that building is re-purposed and ready to go for the superintendent's next initiative."

Most of the money for the project comes from the state. But people I-Team 10 spoke with want to know why that money couldn't have instead been used elsewhere.

Henry Washington said, "That $330,000  could go on better lunches, go to better books."

Demeris Williams said, "They need to put the money into something productive to help get the kids off the street and help them with a better education."

Schmidt said, "The money for capital improvements is set aside for capital improvements so it can't be re-purposed for other entities such as that."

What about just returning it to taxpayers?

Schmidt said, "I suppose a case could be made for that, but the reality of the situation is the work needed to be done."

The district says the improvements will benefit students and staff in any future use of the building. There's just no telling when that might be. The district says with its school modernization plan ongoing for the next decade, it's very possible the building on North Clinton Avenue could be used as swing space for students while their home school is being renovated.