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September 20, 2021 - 11:28am

City school officials consider bringing Robert Morris back to school

Nine years after closing Robert Morris Elementary, city school officials are mulling the idea of resuming it as a school once again.

The idea is in tandem with recommending Request for Proposals of completely renovating the well-used Batavia Middle School. The Board of Education unanimously agreed to move forward with the school’s construction assessment and a cost estimate during Thursday’s board meeting.  

Board member John Reigle spoke on behalf of the Buildings and Grounds Committee, which has been conducting a district facilities review. 

His mission was to ask the board “to direct our contractors” to conduct a complete review of the middle school to find out how much work and money it would take to renovate and abate the site, he said, and the cost to “bring Robert Morris up to date to facilitate student use.”

Interim Superintendent Scott Bischoping added that it would be ideal to do this site study before any discussions about the next capital project take place. 

“Just to get an idea of the cost and what the community would like to do,” Bischoping said. “Eventually you’re not going to be able to put Band-Aids on that building. Many districts have totally gutted and rehabbed their buildings, but there’s a price tag to that.”

The middle school building has been around for quite a while, tucked into the residential neighborhood along Ross Street. It was initially built in 1926 to be used as a high school until Batavia High School was built in 1961 on State Street. Wear and tear and an estimated “significant amount of abatement” would be part of the renovation, which has become clear to the board, Benedict said.

“There’s a lot of dealing with abatement, and it puts a lot of expense on the project,” she said. “Probably in the future, we’re going to have to get some kids back to Robert Morris.”

Abatement, a word commonly used for cleaning up toxic materials such as asbestos, has been identified for the middle school. Bischoping said that it has been very difficult to do any work in the building without disturbing those materials. After the scope and costs have been determined for construction and abatement of the middle school, and any work necessary to get Robert Morris up to speed for full use, the Buildings and Grounds Committee will put forward a recommendation for board vote, Benedict said. 

In 2012, city school district officials closed Robert Morris Elementary in an effort to consolidate students and merge the west side school’s population into Jackson Primary and John Kennedy Intermediate. The defunct building at Richmond Avenue and Union Street then became host of a childcare facility and Genesee Valley Educational Partnership (BOCES) classes. The childcare facility has since moved out to another location and Covid ceased the other activities, Benedict said, rendering the site “an empty building.”

 

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