KINDERHOOK–The Ichabod Crane School Board discussed a possible $15-million capital improvement project at a special meeting June 19. District Business Manager Michael Brennan called the proposed upgrades the “largest project that’s been done here in quite some time.”
The proposed capital improvements include bullet resistant “film” and glass at the greeter stations at all three school buildings; a new road connecting the primary school to the other two school buildings on the campus, which will help with the one-bell bus system the district plans to start this September; replacing temporary walls with permanent ones in the classroom “pods” in the elementary wing of the middle school building; updating the science classrooms in the high school; and putting in artificial turf on one of the sports fields.
Representatives from CSArch, an Albany architecture and engineering firm, were at the meeting to review the plans. The hope is to have a final plan approved by the board in October and to have residents vote on whether to fund the project in December.
Mr. Brennan said that the district would “have some debt falling off the books” from a past capital project in 2021, so that if the school takes on debt for this project it won’t have a large impact on the school tax for property owners.
Mr. Brennan said the district’s financial adviser came to the last board meeting to talk about the financial impact if the board moves forward with the project. Board members were told that if they kept the project at $11.5 million there would be a zero tax impact on taxpayers.
The proposed plan the board was reviewing at the June 19 meeting would be closer to $15 million for phase 1. If the plan is approved in December by residents, work would not start until 2020 and would be completed in 2022. A phase 2 would be another $15 million that voters would have to approve. The administration is looking at spacing the two phases out over five years.
During the discussion, School Superintendent Michael Vanyo told board. “You might see things in phase 1 that you want to see in phase 3.” He stressed that phase 2 might change. “It’s a long-term project,” he said.
Ed Anker, from CSArch, said that the “vast majority” of the proposed upgrades in phase 1 are academic, with updated classrooms for STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) learning. There are also general maintenance repairs like ceiling work in both the high school and middle school buildings, as well as windows and door replacements.
Mr. Anker and Mr. Brennan talked about the impact on households in the district, saying that for a house assessed at $200,000 the yearly tax increase would be about $12. “The cost of less than a pizza,” Mr. Anker said. He also talked about state aid covering about 72% of the construction costs.
When talking about the funding, board member Jeff Ouellette said, “It hasn’t been consistent, it’s been a little confusing.” He stressed that the board needed to be careful about the impact to residents’ taxes. “Looking at this project, I think it could divide this community if it’s not done correctly,” he said.
He said there were things in the plan that needed to get done, but there were also things that were “wants.”
“There’s needs and there are wants. They are bundled together, and that scares me,” he said of the proposed project.
Board member Regina Rose had questions about the artificial turf. Tim Stewart, head of the district’s athletics department and Steve Marotta, facility directors, talked about the savings from not having to mow and maintain the field if the turf is put in. Mr. Marotta said his department estimated a $18,000 savings. “The savings is real,” he said.
Ms. Rose pointed out that the cost of the turf was the same as the cost of upgrading one of the classroom pods in the elementary school.
Athletic Director Stewart said that besides the sports, like soccer, lacrosse, field hockey and football, that would use the field, gym classes would use the turf as well.
Several residents came out to the meeting to hear about the plan and board member Matthew Nelson encouraged them to spread the word about the proposal. He also asked that the information be put on the school’s website.
The district has added a section to their website with information about the project at www.ichabodcrane.org/capital-project.
The board will host another workshop meeting on the project July 24 at 7 p.m. in the high school library. Mr. Anker of CSArch said that the board would have to finalize the plan in October to be ready for a vote in December.
Also at the meeting:
• The board appointed Marcella Sanchez assistant principal for the elementary/middle school starting July 23. Elementary/middle School Principal Tim Farley said that Ms. Sanchez spent the day at the school and “she’s a fit” for the district
• The board thanked student board member Jessica Alessi for her service as a non-voting member this year. Jessica was also the first student board member who gave monthly reports. The board appointed Olivia Chandler to serve on the board for the next school year
• The board also thanked outgoing board member Brendan Caluneo. Mr. Caluneo was elected for a one year term last year and was not reelected this year
• The board approved a four year contract with Superintendent Vanyo. In the new contract, which all board members at the meeting voted in favor of except Mr. Ouellette, Mr. Vanyo would get a 3% salary increase. Board member John Antalek was not at the meeting.
Mr. Vanyo thanked the board and said “this is where I want to be.”
Mr. Ouellette said that his vote was not personal but that he felt “salary increase is not sustainable.”
The board convenes its organizational meeting Tuesday, July 10 at 7 p.m.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email