Alonso said that as the city campaigns to raise an estimated $2.8 billion to pay for building improvements, it will find itself in the same position that it was in 2001.

"It's going to create the credibility we're going to need if we're asking for billions of dollars for schools that are at 60 percent capacity," he said. Lawmakers "are going to rightfully ask questions about the efficiency of what we're doing."

Those who have advocated for facility improvements to city schools said that they also look forward to discussing the proposal.

"If the closing of schools will modernize the other schools, then it seems like he's going in the right direction, but I haven't seen the plan yet," said Marvin "Doc" Cheatham, whose National Action Network has joined other organizations in lobbying for school improvements.

"It's going to take us sitting down at the table, trying to figure out how to bring this about," Cheatham said. "All we know is that our children go to school in deplorable conditions, and we need to figure this out."

In advocating for President Barack Obama's jobs bill on Friday, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan used Baltimore as an example of the critical infrastructure needs across the nation.

Under the bill, Maryland's schools would receive $315.8 million for infrastructure improvements, a significant portion of which would go to the city. Duncan highlighted Baltimore from a report published by the Council of Great City Schools, which showed that urban school systems face substantial, costly repairs to deteriorating buildings and classrooms.

"Our children only get one shot at a good education," Duncan said in a release. "They deserve better than crumbling school buildings and half-century-old science labs."

Neil Duke, president of the city school board, said he believes that Alonso's proposal is "a piece of welcoming news and very beneficial conversation."

"We're moving the discussion and the dialogue from the closure of schools because of underperformance to what our schools should look like as far as providing 21st-century facilities for our students," he said.

"Everything has to be on the table: the right size of our school populations within buildings, the building itself and whether it's suitable for academic use and extracurricular programming. We've got to build our stock."

erica.green@baltsun.com