Archive for Tuesday, September 9, 2003

Board member revisits Centennial decision

September 9, 2003


Discussion of major repairs to Lawrence school buildings prompted a board member Monday to urge reconsideration of the closure of Centennial School.

Leonard Ortiz, elected to the board in April on a platform that included opposition to Centennial's demise, said it would be a mistake to invest millions of dollars from the district's five-year facility improvement budget at Cordley School, which he views as inferior to Centennial.

"Should we re-examine the decision on school closures regarding Centennial and Cordley?" he said.

The board voted to keep open Cordley, 1837 Vt., and shut down Centennial, 2145 La., before Ortiz took office in July.

Ortiz argued it would be less expensive for the district to improve and maintain Centennial than Cordley. The five-year facility plan earmarked $3.2 million for upgrades at Cordley but listed nothing for the mothballed Centennial.

"I'm telling you, you can save $3.2 million right here," Ortiz said.

"I don't see that," said Austin Turney, the board's president and a champion of Cordley's preservation.

"Why not?" replied Ortiz.

"I don't see reopening it," said Turney, who attended Cordley as a child.

In the end, the idea of revisiting the board's 6-1 vote to consolidate Centennial, East Heights and Riverside schools in May was left hanging.

As board members began to file out, Ortiz made clear he wasn't pleased his question went unanswered by all: "I wish you had taken me seriously."

The board tentatively agreed to authorize Tom Bracciano, director of operations and facility planning, to proceed with $2.1 million in major upgrades in district schools.

A big winner was Lawrence High School, which is slated to receive $800,000 in improvements. LHS, 1901 La., will have money to install air conditioning in two gyms, replace all windows and repair exterior walls.

Central Junior High School, 1400 Mass., will make use of $600,000 for air conditioning in the gym, new windows, exterior repairs and renovated locker rooms.

Other top recipients:

  • $400,000 at Cordley for replacement of windows and repair of exterior walls.
  • $250,000 at West Junior High School, 2700 Harvard Road, for new plumbing and gym bleachers.
  • $175,000 at Hillcrest School, 1045 Hilltop Drive, to air-condition the gym and new windows.

Board member Rich Minder, who also opposed Centennial's closure, said the district should move ahead with projects designed to keep school buildings, including Cordley, from deteriorating.

"I would not want for us to be irresponsible about that based on our discontent with its current use relative to another school -- Centennial," Minder said.

Money for these projects will be drawn from the district's capital-outlay budget. The fund contains $6.2 million left from last year and will take in about $6.6 million in 2003-2004.

The large projected balance has the board thinking in terms of major facility improvements, said Leni Salkind, board vice president.

"You can address a lot of inequity issues, and I think we need to do that," she said.

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