Syracuse school board votes to close two schools

An emotional reaction from parents, students and even some Syracuse School board members after the swing space plan was approved by a 4-3 vote.

Raysan Evans was tearing up as he realized he won't be going back to Bellevue Middle School next year, " I have good relationships with all of my teachers and if I go to Blodgett I wont have good relationships with anyone," he said. His school and Elmwood Elementary will close and be used as swing space to house students while two other schools in the district are renovated.

"You're moving our kids from Bellevue, which is a good standing school to Blodgett which really needs repair. How are they supposed to learn in a building like that," said Bellevue parent Darlene Medley.

A tense discussion led up to the vote. Board President Richard Strong said Syracuse schools are some of the worst in the country, and that's unnacceptable. He said the district needs to move forward with renovations and he voted to approve the swing space plan. "I know its hard but I have to support this," he said.

"There is opposition there is no question about that, parents love their schools love the staff so we know this is difficult," said Lowengard.

Come September, hundreds of students will be shuffled around the district. Elmwood kids will now go to Danforth or a nearby neighborhood school. Bellevue students will go to Blodgett and to make room there, Blodgett kids will filter to different schools.

"These are a lot of students, a lot of kids and a lot of parents throughout the district are going to be affect by this on a larger scale and I don't think the board understands," said a choked up Eliza Sampson who has a student in Elmwood.

Some parents like Nyellka Brown are even threatening to pull their kids out of the district. "I refuse to have these decisions be made, just like they are today," she said.

Lowengard says the district will send out letters to parents and work with families through the difficult transition.

The district is also facing a near $50-million deficit in the next budget year. Lowengard says more tough decisions will come, including hundreds of layoffs.

5:20pm update:

The Syracuse City School Board has approved a plan to close two schools.

By a vote of 4 to 3, board members voted to close Elmwood Elementary and Bellevue Middle Schools.

During the discussion before the vote, board members who spoke out against the plan said the community was kept in the loop. They said parents and taxpayers were not told enough about the plan.

Superintendent Dan Lowengard says he knows it's never popular to close schools, but says it's the best option considering the construction needs to start as soon as possible.

Original story:

The Syracuse City School Board of Education will vote later today on a proposal to close two city schools - the Elmwood Elementary and Bellevue Middle schools.

Superintendent Dan Lowengard suggested the plan as a way to save the district money. Once closed as regular schools, the buildings would be used as swing space - a place for students from other schools to attend class while their buildings are undergoing renovations.

Parents of students who attend Elmwood and Bellevue have held protests against the plan and come out in force at community forums on the proposal.