In an unprecedented move, the Rochester school board voted 5 to 0 in favor of leasing some of its excess building space to a local charter school last night. Board members Cynthia Elliott and Melisza Campos did not attend the meeting.
Sharing public school buildings has been a source of tension between pro-charter and anti-charter groups. While charters are public schools, they do not operate under the same type of governance and oversight as their host district's schools.
Finding adequate building space is a challenge for many charter school operators because they usually do not have the funds to build their own space, and real estate is expensive in many urban areas. The turf war has been most hotly debated in New York City, where Mayor Bill de Blasio planned to begin charging rent to that city's charters.
The situation is a little different in Rochester where enrollment is declining in city schools and climbing in charters. Rochester's school buildings are the property of the city, but they are maintained by the school district.
The resolution the board approved gives Superintendent Bolgen Vargas permission to enter into a lease agreement with True North Preparatory Charter School for the district's building at 690 St. Paul Street, which is also known as 175 Martin Street, from July 2014 through June 2015.
True North will lease the third floor for $178,125 annually. It can also lease the fifth floor for the same amount, if needed. The lease includes utilities.
The city school district is currently using much of 690 St. Paul as swing space to house some East High School students while construction is taking place at the East campus. East is one of the schools being overhauled in the multimillion-dollar first phase of the district's school modernization project. East students should vacate 690 St. Paul at the end of the school year in June.