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Planning begins to turn former Syracuse Central Tech into STEAM school

The planning work has started on the first STEAM school in central New York. The former Central Tech building on South Salina Street in Syracuse, should be hosting its first students in the science, technology, engineering, arts and math high school by the fall of 2021.

"We’re talking about a capacity of probably 800 kids,” Syracuse City School Distict Superintendent Jaime Alicea said. “When the school is full capacity, up to a thousand. Of that, 60 percent will be Syracuse City School students. The other 40 percent will be from other districts in central New York. And we will be phasing them in as ninth graders.”

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Syracuse Superintendent Jaime Alicea, State Sen. Rachel May and State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins.

Alicea can’t say at this point how much it’s going to cost to rehab the historic building, but all sources are on the table: local governments, state government, and private naming rights.

"We are working with the state education department to submit a project for this,” Alicea said. “We have an idea how much it’s going to cost, but we want to make sure we get accurate numbers.”

There is a lot of work to be done. The school has been vacant, for the most part, since 1975, according to Tom Ferrerra, director of facilities for the city school disrict.

“The building needs new electrical systems,” Ferrerra said. “It has no heating, plumbing. We have to redo the bathrooms. We have to bring it up to building code. We also have to make it accessible. We have to do windows. We have to do historical work in the auditorium.”

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Central Tech auditorium.

The auditorium is the jewel of the school. It holds 1,900 people and would also be an asset for the community. State Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins toured the facility and said she’ll put her power in Albany behind the project.

"I know the energy is here,” Stewart-Cousins said. “I’m optimistic. I want to be here for the ribbon cutting.”

The rehab of Central Tech will be the centerpiece of a city program called the Syracuse Surge, an economic growth engine focused on the south side of the city.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.