KINDERHOOK –The Ichabod Crane Board of Education held a public forum this week on a proposed capital project board members hope to bring to voters for approval in December. At the July 24 public meeting, the district did not present a final figure for the work but showed the audience of over 70 people all the possible projects that could be done.
Over the last few months the board has been discussing the need for infrastructure and safety upgrades at all three of the school buildings and other parts of the campus. According to a facilities study, the schools need about $40 million in work, with $6 million required to be in any project put before the state Education Department (SED) for state approval and state aid.
In the past the board discussed a $15-to-$20 million project. The board’s financial adviser said that if the capital project costs $11.5 million there will be no tax increase on property owners in school district. Anything above that would mean an increase in school taxes.
Representatives from CSArch, the engineering and architecture firm hired by the district to put together a plan, has always presented the project in phases. At the last board meeting in early July, phase one included about $15 million in work, with a phase two starting five years after phase one. Phase one would deal with immediate needs and some other things that the board would like to see to improve academics and physical education.
What was presented to residents at this meeting on Tuesday was a long list of things the board would like to include in any phase of the project. In the slides CSArch showed the residents, phase one only included the $6 million of work that must be done for the SED to approve the project. Everything else was moved to phase two for the board to pick and choose from.
“This is an iterative process,” said Ed Anker from CSArch.
School Board President Matthew Nelson said the list of things was the board’s menu to chose from. The board was planning to discuss what projects they want to include in the final draft of the capital project at the July 24 meeting but they ended up taking more comments from the public.
“This has been very helpful to get this feedback,” said Mr. Nelson.
The board plans to discuss the project at their August 7 meeting, and Mr. Nelson said the “hard deadline” for deciding on the final draft is October so that they can ask for voters approval at a special vote on December 12. If approved, the project would have to go to SED for an approval which, according to Mr. Anker, could take up to 35 weeks. They would go out to bid for the work in 2019 and hope to complete it in 2022.
Architects and engineers from CSArch went through the proposed upgrades, which would be above the $6 million. They include safety upgrades–like bullet resistant film and glass at the greeter stations at all the schools. There is also a proposal to enclose the middle school cafeteria, which now has windows to the courtyard and the front of the school. And there was a project to improve the gym at the middle school, which houses grades 4 through 8, and update the locker rooms. There are classroom wings, called pods, that need permanent walls and window replacements. There are three pods in the building that need replacement. In most of the proposals CSArch has suggested doing one pod at a time, since they will need to be done over the summer and it could take three years to replace them all.
There is a plan to upgrade the science classrooms in the high school and support more vocational training. CSArch’s Melissa Renkawitz, said the upgrades would support STEAM programs (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math). “These rooms do not support 21st century learning,” she said of the current classrooms.
One parent at the meeting asked if the district built these new classrooms would it have the teaching staff to support it. “I’m concerned it’s going to end up being a really cool study hall,” she said of the rooms. School Superintendent Michael Vanyo said they do have technology teachers who could use the rooms but that they might need to hire at least one additional staff member.
There was a presentation on the proposal to replace the grass on one the sports fields with artificial turf. Jeff Budrow, an engineer that CSArch asked to speak about the turf, talked about the safety of the turf for concussions and the easy maintenance. He said there were cons, which included articles about health issues with off-gassing from the field. He said they were still waiting on a study about that from the federal EPA.
Several parents and one student asked why the stage at the high school was not included the plan since they talked about how unsafe it is and that many students use it for performances and presentations. Another parent said that she was concerned that none of the music classrooms were included in the project. She said the school needed to bring the music program into the 21st century.
Other residents talked about safety issues, especially with windows in the primary and middle school buildings. A parent asked about more space in the primary school, which has one room serving as the gym, cafeteria and auditorium.
People had concerns about the proposal for a road that would connect all three buildings on the campus. There is no campus road connecting the primary school to the other buildings.
A resident talked about ventilation and air conditioning in the buildings. There is a plan to update the ventilation but no air conditioning, according to Mr. Anker.
“If we did everything that everybody wanted it would be $100 million,” said Superintendent Vanyo during the discussion. He stressed the board and the administration are listening to the feedback but that they have to be realistic about the project.
Other residents were concerned about communication with the public. Mr. Nelson and Mr. Vanyo said they are trying every way to get the information out. Mr. Nelson said that board members would be going out into the community to talk to groups. “There is nothing to be hidden here,” he said.
The board had put up information on the district website about the early proposals. There is a survey about the proposed scope of work on the website now at www.ichabodcrane.org/capital-project.
The board will meet again on Tuesday, August 7 at 7 p.m. in the high school library.
To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email