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District seeks feedback on capital project scope

Sept. 20, 2016

After more than a year of studying facility needs for the district —which included getting feedback from the facilities committee, reviewing reports, gathering information, and weighing options — the Schalmont Board of Education is preparing to finalize the scope of a capital project to be put up for a vote later this year.

The public is invited to a study session Monday, Sept. 26 at 7 p.m. in the High School Library, as part of the board meeting, to learn more about the potential project. There will also be an opportunity to give feedback.

The board is expected to finalize the scope of the project and set a referendum date at the meeting.

Currently under consideration is a $13 million capital bond project that would include creating a safer vestibule and entrance in the high school, HVAC work such as plumbing, flooring and basic maintenance in all three buildings, and replacing the roof on the transportation building.

“Many parts of a facility are good only for so long, then wear and tear comes into play as they near the end of their useful life,” Schalmont Superintendent Carol Pallas said.

The majority of the project is “aidable,” meaning the district would receive money back from the state on a portion of the work, estimated at about half the cost of the project. Final estimates are expected by the board meeting on Monday.

A PROJECT BREAKDOWN

Transportation Building 100

A major area of concern is the roof of Transportation Building 100. While the building still has “great bones,” the committee reported, the roof is no longer solid and presents a safety concern.

“Pieces of it are literally crumbling,” Pallas said.

The committee identified this project as a high priority because the roof will either need to be repaired as soon as possible or the district will need to vacate the facility for safety concerns. The committee did research other options for bus storage, including leasing another building and storing the buses outside, but both presented barriers and were more costly alternatives.

After an inspection, Karl Griffith, from the firm of Griffith Dardanelli Architects, PC, said the structure is at the point where patch repairs would cost as much as replacing the roof and the roof deck.

The Middle School

The committee identified the original 1968 HVAC systems in the middle school as another area of concern. Items such as ventilators, transformers, gate valves, drainage piping, air handling units, heating piping, ductwork, and emergency lighting are approaching the end of their useful lives and need to be brought up to current building and safety codes.

The High School

Similar to the middle school, some of the original construction of the high school is nearing the end of its useful life such as the original restrooms, the old gym roofing and flooring, corridor tiles, and storm drainage. The committee also recommended resurfacing the track around the high school stadium field.

Another recommendation was to create a more secure vestibule entrance. After considering several designs, the concept of creating one main entrance emerged as a viable option. This option would include moving the high school library to the current main office space and converting the library to a “one-stop-shop” for visitors. By adding a vestibule, a more secure entrance will be created. This will then open to the main office area, which will also house guidance and the nurse’s office, three of the main places visitors go when entering the building.

“By having the main office, guidance, and the nurse’s office all centrally located at the building entrance, it will increase security not only by having an extra set of doors visitors must access, but also by reducing the number of visitors in our halls,” Pallas said.

In addition, the high school needed an area for flexible learning, so this space would also house what is being called a Learning Commons. The commons would be a multi-purpose space for instruction, small group learning, media connections, and intervention services for students. The concept would be to make a more 21st century-focused space that is almost a combination of a traditional library and Starbucks, with the Sabre Café being right outside.

“The Learning Commons meets the needs of today’s student and allows for a more college-like atmosphere for learning,” Pallas added.

Jefferson Elementary

Much like the middle school and high school, Jefferson requires some work to be brought up to date, but on a much smaller scale. Work on the wing built in 1974 would include fire alarm strobe units and emergency lighting installation, electrical reconstruction and some pavement/masonry work.

CONSIDERING A CAPITAL PROJECT

Though the district’s facilities staff regularly makes repairs and building updates, there is a limit to what they can accomplish within the general fund budget.

“Funding repairs through the general budget only allows for small-scale upkeep. It doesn’t give us the funding or means to do larger-scale projects,” Pallas said. “Using just the operating budget for repairs is not the most cost-effective way to address large projects.”

Elements of a capital project are eligible for state aid, which is why Pallas and the committee recommended the board consider putting a project before district voters. The district currently has a state aid ratio of 59.8 percent for eligible expenses – meaning the state would reimburse the district for nearly 60 percent of eligible repairs and construction, with the remaining 40 percent being the estimated local share.

Final estimates for the project and estimated aid are currently being calculated and will be presented to the board at Monday night’s meeting, along with the estimated tax impact of such a project.

The board will then review all the materials and determine if it will move forward and set the scope for a capital project referendum later this year.

The community is invited to come learn more about the capital project and give feedback at the Monday, Sept. 26 board meeting at 7 p.m. in the High School Library.