Groundbreaking begins $40.8M school project

A groundbreaking ceremony was held Thursday for a multi-million-dollar capital project in the Catskill Central School District. Sarah Trafton/Columbia-Greene Media

CATSKILL — Shovels in hand, members of the Catskill Central School District administration and board of education marked the start of the district’s $40.8 million capital project.

First approved in a February 2019 referendum, 308-259, the capital project was delayed due to the pandemic, Superintendent Ronel Cook said.

The project was initially scheduled to begin at the end of June, but approval by the state Education Department was delayed.

“We’re hoping for a warm winter so we can get a lot of work done,” Cook said. “We’re very pleased to begin this process to bring 21st century learning to our students and community.”

State funding will reimburse the district 69.5 cents for each eligible dollar spent. The rest of the cost will come from $4 million the district set aside in a Capital Reserve Fund and from issuing bonds the district will repay over a 15-year period, according to the district. For an average homeowner, the estimated increase in property taxes from the bonds is about $8.41 per month.

“That’s huge for us,” Cook said, referring to the state aid. “This is definitely a return investment. It’s a great day in Catskill.”

Contractors will be on-site next week to start the first phase of the project, which will include constructing a new gym for the middle school, upgrading the track and converting the soccer field to a turf field, Cook said.

“They will be on-site next Wednesday,” Cook said. “Tuesday night we have our last soccer game and we didn’t want to affect that.”

The district hired BBS Architects, Landscape Architects and Engineers, and the contract manager for the work is Triton Construction.

Construction bids were awarded to Bunkoff General Contractors, Inc., for $8.2 million and Gallo Construction Corp. for $1.3 million; the electrical bid went to Stilsing Electric Inc. for $508,244; and the plumbing bid was awarded to Crisafulli Bros. Plumbing & Heating Contractors, Inc., for $248,000.

Some of the school’s recreational area will be impacted temporarily by the construction, Cook said.

“Unfortunately, the basketball court and soccer field will be cordoned off until at least next summer,” he said. “It will not affect the tennis courts.”

Construction will be relatively noninvasive, Cook said.

“Construction will not delay parents picking up or dropping off their children,” he said.

The first phase of the project will also involve creating a new pick-up and drop-off area for parents at the elementary school, Cook said.

Construction on the first phase is expected to wrap up next August or September, Cook said, with completion of the entire project expected in summer 2022.

Phase 2 will involve turning the current middle-school gym into a science, technology, engineering, art and math lab, Cook said. It will be available to both middle- and high-school students.

A computer lab will be installed in the upper level of the gym with a workspace below for carpentry and mechanical work, Cook said.

“It will allow a lot of collaboration for our students,” Cook said. “It gives students the opportunity to take skills from the STEAM lab right into the workforce.”

It’s important to give students different pathways, Cook noted.

“We need to prepare them well, whether it’s for the workforce or secondary studies,” he said.

Phase 3 will involve security enhancements to the campus, such as transaction windows at each entrance where visitors will check in and swipe card access to classrooms, Cook said.

Other improvements will include upgrades to high school science labs and the auditorium and installing temperature control for all classrooms, Cook said.

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