The first time I heard about the city school district's facilities modernization project was during a meeting with former Superintendent Manny Rivera. He was so enthusiastic and spoke with such urgency that it seemed like it would be only months before the mammoth $325 million project to renovate and modernize Rochester's schools would break ground.
That was in 2007.
The plan has had more than a few delays and revisions. But tomorrow, city and school district officials will finally break ground at a ceremony at School 50. And it has me wondering: just how important are these old buildings to students, teachers, and the larger community?
Is modernizing Rochester's schools about adults righting a moral wrong, or is it about improving student achievement? It's hard to drive by buildings like Webster's new high school, for instance, with its modern brick façade and not be reminded of how segregated the area's schools have become.
Rochester's aging schools have in some ways become a symbol of economic and racial injustice. Thankfully, taxpayers are finally making a long overdue investment in the future of Rochester's students.
But teachers, families, and especially students should never lose sight of something more important than the upgrades: people give buildings life and purpose. And Rochester's schools have a history. Tens of thousands of highly successful people have graduated from these schools, and they've gone on to become doctors, attorneys, teachers, engineers, artists, and more.
Students who enter these same buildings today can do the same.