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Construction nears for School 16 update

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School 16 will transform from a small, wood-frame building to one of the most impressive in the Rochester City School District if all goes according to plans. The architectural planning phase for the school's remodel is mostly complete, says district Chief of Operations Michael Schmidt.

Parents, teachers, and neighbors can now better imagine what the school will look like when the work is finished sometime in 2018. The plans can be viewed on the SW Common Council's website: http://bit.ly/2lxXU9z.

School 16, which is in the southwest quadrant of the city at 321 Post Avenue, is part of the second phase of the $1.2 billion Rochester schools modernization program. Plans for the three-story building show a major addition that will house a new gymnasium and performance stage.

The school's old gymnasium will become a library and the old library space will be converted to classroom space. The building's second floor and balcony area will be redesigned to house additional classroom space.

"We've done quite a bit of work," Schmidt says. "We're renovating all of the building space and all mechanical systems will be updated." The school will have new windows, heating, and ventilation and electrical systems. And it will receive a major technology upgrade.

Only some portions of the building in use all school year are being considered for air-conditioning. School 16 doesn't have air-conditioning now.

The school's new gymnasium and performance stage will be designed to allow access without opening the whole school. This would permit some public use of the building for sports or events after school hours.

Schmidt is careful not to call the space a recreation area or community center, since those types of buildings are generally staffed by the city.

The schools modernization program is mostly reimbursed by the state using a formula that places higher priority on spaces that get a lot of student use. A community space like the Ryan Center at School 33, for example, would most likely require additional funding.

School 16 was not originally part of the modernization program, but a group of residents and parents from the city's southwest fought plans to shutter the school.

Former Superintendent Bolgen Vargas wasn't convinced that the cost to renovate the building was a good investment; the school needed significant improvements.

But the neighborhood group says that School 16 is essential to the continued health of neighborhoods, including the historic 19th Ward. They fear that young families won't find the area desirable, despite the strong housing stock, without a neighborhood school.

The renovated School 16 will house pre-k through grade six. The final renovation plan still has to be approved by the state before construction begins.

School 16's students are currently housed at Dr. Freddie Thomas High School on Scio Street. Students are scheduled to return to the updated School 16 building in the fall of 2018.

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