VALATIE — Residents of the Ichabod Crane Central School District asked officials to consider renovations to art and theater facilities in the high school and installing air conditioning in the buildings as the district irons out plans for a proposed $44.77 million capital project that could stretch over multiple years.
The school district held a public forum at the high school Tuesday night to discuss possible plans for capital improvements to the school buildings and grounds and field ideas and questions from local residents.
The preliminary cost estimate for the scope of ideas for the project — a fluid number that could change as the project plans develop — increased from the original June estimate of $39.9 million to $44.77 million, which was first announced at the public forum. Many of the originally proposed ideas remain similar, broken down into categories of health and safety, academics and programming, physical education and athletics, building infrastructure and site infrastructure.
The project is conceptual at this stage, district officials said at Tuesday’s forum, but some audience members were concerned about the lack of plans to improve the high school’s theater and music facilities the lack of air conditioning throughout the buildings, the lack of recreation space for children in the primary school and concerns about possible plans to install a synthetic turf athletic field.
District officials proposed to renovate gym space in both the high and middle schools, but resident Carey Jones asked why separate physical education and cafeteria space for the primary school was not prioritized.
“The students at the primary school share a cafeteria and gym with the other schools,” Jones said. “Young kids need space to be active and run around and be creative.”
The district could not receive state aid to provide the primary school with a separate gym and cafeteria, school board member Jeffrey Ouellette said, because the district could not justify a need to build the new spaces because of declining student enrollment.
The district has about 1,832 students enrolled for the upcoming 2018-19 school year. Enrollment has not exceeded 2,000 students since 2010, with the largest enrollment numbers reaching 1,942 students for the 2014-15 academic year.health and safety
The proposed ideas to improve health and safety in the buildings include coating certain windows at the entrance of the buildings as well as replacing large, low windows in the front offices of the high school.
Several residents argued those windows often remain open on hot days because the school gets too warm inside with a lack of air conditioning for certain parts of the buildings, rendering the proposed security improvements worthless. Residents asked why the district is not including central air conditioning throughout the buildings.
“We can’t get state aid for everything,” Ouellette said. “When we add non-required items, we all have to agree to pay for it if it is something we all want.”
District officials repeated several times proposed items in the project come from balancing work required by the state based on the five-year building conditions survey and what the district can get state aid for and afford.synthetic turf field
District officials pushed the idea of installing a synthetic turf athletic field to replace the sports field at the high school, which was installed in 2005.
The turf field has a shelf life between 12 to 15 years and preliminary estimates put the initial cost of the turf installation at $1.56 million. The subsequent replacement of the field around $600,000 at about $6 per square foot.
“The natural field will still need to be replaced,” Ichabod Central School District Superintendent Michael Vanyo said.
Vanyo told the audience the state will aid the school for about 75 percent of the cost of the synthetic turf field.
“So 25 percent will be the net cost we will have to pay off,” Vanyo said.
Generally, the district tries to pay off bonds in 15 years, Ouellette added.
The question arose about whether the turf field will be cost-effective with a 15-year shelf life coupled with savings from maintaining the field, which requires grooming a few times a month.
District Facilities Director Steven Marotta told residents the department spends $18,000 a year to maintain the sports field at the high school on the district’s own dime, with four mechanics spending about 50 percent of their time on the field and other areas of the grounds.
Officials moved the turf field to phase two of the project prior to the public forum.Theater and music facilities
Several residents expressed concern none of the proposed plans include improvements to the auditorium stage or music suites in the high school.
Residents argued the stage is unsafe with several structural soft spots and a leak that causes stairs in the auditorium to become slippery and dangerous. Residents also complained the music suites lack proper soundproofing and need floor and ceiling replacements.
School officials scheduled another public meeting Aug. 7, and possible meetings at the end of August and in September.
District officials plan to have a final project scope by October and hold a vote on the project in December.