UPDATE: Fate of Walker Elementary School Up in the Air

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UPDATED May 11, 2016:
ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Rockford Public Schools is making good on their promise to some concerned neighbors. It’s possible now that a wrecking ball may not hit the walls of Walker Elementary School. When RPS 205 made the decision to close the doors on a number of old, run-down schools, it promised to consider what neighbors in the affected areas wanted to see done to the spaces. Those ideas are starting to be heard.

"They have done that analysis and they've identified it is a high need," shouted one Rockford Park District employee about the park district’s interest to take ownership of the building.

Tear it down or rehab? Opinions were split as to what Walker Elementary’s fate should be after it officially closes this year. One developer sees too much potential to let go without a putting up a fight.

"The building is extremely sound, it's built like a fortress,” said Alberto Altamore, Chairman of Development for North End Commons Business Association. “And also, if you were to look at the qualities this building has to offer: the very high ceilings, the big rooms, the wood work; I think it's a mistake because if Italy and other European countries had done that years ago - where they would tear down these old buildings rather than restore them or remake them - people wouldn't even bothered going to Europe."

Altamore was born in Italy; he wants the school district to give Walker to the City of Rockford. That would give the city one year from the time it takes ownership of the property before any demolitions would have to happen.

RPS 205 tells 23 News it will look at tonight's surveys and come up with its final plan soon.

Another public meeting will be held at St. Peter’s School tomorrow evening.

ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Walker Elementary is the first of three schools in District 205 to close, and dozens of neighbors are deciding what should happen to the building so it doesn't become an eyesore.

Some neighbors say they would like to see a park in place of the location, while others would like to see it repurposed into a community center, or something to serve residents in the area. A concern for some families is for the building to remain vacant for so long, that their property values go down.

"This was an asset to your neighborhood and we want to replace it with an asset. What would you like have happen with this property, with this land. Getting feedback from those who live around it is just critical to the school district as well as to me as a neighbor," said Third Ward Alderman Tom McNamara.

Tonight is the first of three meetings. The school district, as well as city leaders, expect to have a decision on what will happen to the school in about three months.

The next meeting will be at Walker School on April 20, followed by the final meeting May 12 at Saint Peter's church. The last meeting is when the school district will tell neighbors all of the options they have.

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