Syracuse schools renovation projects discussed

Clary Middle School / file photo

Plans are moving forward to renovate several schools in the Syracuse City School District. It's a $135 million project that seems to change by the day. And now, there's talk about moving students to other buildings during construction.

On Thursday, members of the Joint Schools Construction Board were pouring over design drafts, getting a look at future plans for renovating Syracuse schools. The focus was on H.W. Smith, Dr. Weeks, and the Institute of Technology. They'll be getting a major facelift along with Fowler High School. Shea and Clary would see partial work done as well. "Well, we really have a picture, so hopefully it becomes real. There's really a plan," said Sharon Birnkrant, Principal of H.W. Smith school. With more than 800 students at her school, Birnkrant is looking forward to seeing this project finally move forward after years of being stalled.

And despite the district's major budget deficit, they still plan to make it happen. While they look over building designs at City Hall, the question remains, where will students go during construction? "When is a question. We're still looking at some of the plans in terms of having swing space, if we have room in some of the other buildings to put the kids in. So we're still having those discussions," said Calvin Corriders, Commissioner of Education.

The superintendent hopes to have students moved as early as September when the new school years begins. The district's plan is to move students and staff from two schools to the former Syracuse Developmental Center Site on South Wilber Avenue and move students and staff from the third school to Peck and Reid Halls, recently used as a downtown charter school.

But the school board is now asking the superintendent to go back and study the leases as well as the current capacity in school buildings. "It's an issue of having kids in different buildings while you do the renovation, but there's a cost to that, or keep the kids in existing buildings, renovate, but delay the process of those renovations," Corriders said. "So those are two things we're looking at."

Where to move the students and when isn't a done deal yet. It's something school board members will consider and vote on, potentially at their board meeting next month.