"If [the closing] ends up giving them more opportunities, we have to accept it and move on," said Powell, who expects to be assigned to another school next year. "We have to be sure that their education continues so they can reach the goals they have."

Officials and advocates said the sacrifices that school communities face will mean facilities better suited to serve students in the 21st century -- from basics such as drinking water and temperature control to state-of-the-art amenities like technology hubs and culinary kitchens.

"There are not many moments in your life when you realize you are standing on the edge of something great," said Sherelle Savage, a parent advocate with the Baltimore Education Coalition, who spoke through tears at the news conference.

She said her "budding artist" and her "chef in the making" lack the facilities to hone their skills in their schools. Her youngest son, she said, is among the lucky students in his school because his classroom's windows open.

"Our buildings are in crisis," Savage said.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake lauded the plan as a "tremendous day for our schools," saying it built upon the legacy of her late father, a former state delegate and dogged champion for education.

"The decisions that have to be made to close some schools are going to be rough all around," Rawlings-Blake said. "Everyone has an emotional attachment, a historic attachment, but we have to have a stronger attachment to these [students]."

The mayor, who proposed a controversial bottle tax that was passed by the City Council and stands to raise $10 million for school construction, also said she believes the school system's blueprint was a critical step toward securing financial backing at the state level for the plan.

In the last General Assembly session, lawmakers stopped short of passing a bill that sought to use a state-guaranteed stream of $32 million a year in the form of a "block grant" to underwrite bonds for a major construction program. Instead the legislature ordered a study of school construction by the 2013 legislative session.

"We couldn't go to Annapolis and say, 'Give me,'" Rawlings-Blake said. "This [10-year plan] talks about not just where we are, but where we can be."

The school system commissioned a $1 million study to document every nook and cranny of its facilities. The so-called "Jacobs Report," released this past spring, detailed a $2.5 billion need and 50 schools that had to be shut down or rebuilt.

Under the new plan, by 2025 the school system would ensure that it was utilizing at least 77 percent of its space -- rather than its current usage of 65 percent -- by shrinking the district as a whole from 163 buildings to 137. The new configuration could accommodate 105,620 students, well over the system's 85,000 current student body.

The school buildings slated for closure encompass 12 programs that will be relocated, and 17 that will cease to exist.

State lawmakers and the city's advocacy community vowed to support efforts in Annapolis to secure funds for the plan.

Del. Curt Anderson, who heads the city delegation, said that securing funding for the project was the "No. 1 priority for every delegate, every senator in Baltimore City."

He said that for the past four years, advocates mobilized by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland have "shamed some legislators to make sure that education is the No. 1 priority."

"It shouldn't have to be that way," Anderson said. "But we're going to have to shame some legislators from other areas, let them know where we stand. We stand behind our kids."

Bebe Verdery, director of education reform for the state's ACLU chapter, called the plan a "milestone" for the school system. She said that the new proposal held more promise than previous ones because, "when plans have been written in the past, there was no strategy to implement it."

Verdery also said she believes that when lawmakers across the state understand the magnitude of the city's needs and plan of action, they will warm to the plan.

"Once legislators from other counties understand that the block grant is the only way city schools are ever going to get new buildings, and it does no harm to their jurisdictions, and could be a model for their counties that also have facilities needs, they'll support it," she said.