ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — A controversial plan that would add two new pre-K centers to the Rochester City School District has been approved by the Board of Education.
The move was proposed in response to the multi-million dollar deficit budget shortfall the district is facing.
With the plan approved, the city district will re-purpose School No. 44 on the south side and School No. 57 on the northwest zone to create early childhood education centers.
District officials said they want to replicate the success they’ve had at the Rochester Early Childhood Education Center off North Clinton Avenue. It’s designed specifically for 3 and 4-year-olds in a family-friendly environment.
“This is not new,” Superintendent Terry Dade said. “It’s seemingly new to the community at large, but we move schools all the time. We move them into a wing space, we provide renovated facilities and then move them back in so they are ready to go. So we are ready to take this on. These are going to be two high quality pre-K centers.”
Officials believe students will continue their path of education with these centers and hope to resolve the issue of drops in enrollment. But it’s causing concern with community-based organizations in the city.
“I have been very concerned about the declined enrollment, over 6,000 students have decline in enrollment over the past ten years,” Dade said.
Currently the district sub-contracts with more than 20 CBO’s to provide the same types of services.
Under the RCSD’s new plan, they could lose around 500 seats and some may be forced to close completely.
“I did not want to close two buildings and turn them over directly to a charter. That is a guarantee decline in enrollment in the RCSD and we can’t afford to have that continue to happen,” Dade said.
Dade said there will be wrap around programs at each of the new pre-K centers and possibly hire back teachers that were laid off.
Now that the vote has passed, the school district will not determine how many seats they’ll be obtaining from CBO’s moving forward.
The vote passed five votes to two, and now the district is planning to fund these two new pre-K centers with federal and state grants aimed for pre-K programs.
The district is also waiting to hear back from the governor’s office about an additional $35 million in emergency funding.