CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. — With upgrades to the high school campus access roads complete the administration of the Shenendehowa School District is already looking ahead to projects that won’t start construction for two or three years.
Shen superintendent L. Oliver Robinson presented the Board of Education with the components of his Project 2020 proposal at the Nov. 5 board meeting. The $23.5 million capital project consists of two parts or priorities; a $15.5 million facilities upgrade plan and an $8 million plan for modernizing classrooms in the middle and elementary schools.
“We have a pretty extensive strategic plan in place for facilities going back to 2010 or 2012,” Robinson said. “The objective is always to bring projects on board with minimal or no cost impact. As a school system we have to think of things from a cost perspective.
"When we have cleared mature debt that’s the time when we bring new projects on board.”
He noted that despite bringing on new debt, such as the project he has planned, the total amount of debt is actually going down because the amount being brought on is smaller than the debt incurred by the previous capital project.
Robinson said he favors mini projects of $15 to $20 million each rather than having one large project in the $200 million range because the time lapse for the larger projects is too long and there is too much inefficiency with them.
“We’d rather have projects with a defined time period, where we know we’re going to do it, get it done, and move on to the next thing,” he said. “As we start looking at our debt we start looking at our needs and we also start looking at the timing; what’s the best timing for our new project.”
He noted that the funding for this past summer projects widening the access roads, increasing the campus parking situation, and creating the soon-to-come signage kiosks was approved by voters in 2016. That $16.6 million referendum approval also provided funds to renovate the high school library that opened in January.
The first component of Project 2020, priority one, includes resurfacing the high school track and the athletic field’s artificial turf, adding LED lights, masonry repairs to a number of the district’s brick buildings, window replacements and repairs, boiler and chiller replacements, new hot water heaters, pumps and fuel storage tanks, upgrades to the district’s electrical capacity, asbestos floor and tile removal, replacement of gymnasium floors and upgrades to the sound and lighting system in the High School West auditorium.
In discussing the need for upgrades to the district’s power capacity Robinson noted that the district is now part of the technology age but the buildings were never designed for today’s power demands.
“These are not sexy (items) but there are big problems if we don’t do them. Everything for us is large scale,” he said. “The turf field and the tack were done 14 years ago. The lifecycle is 10 to 12 years. By the time the work is completed you can expect they will have been there 17 years.”
Robinson estimated the cost of the priority one items at $15.5 million.
The second component of Project 2020, priority two, will be modernizing the classrooms in the middle school complex and the eight elementary schools.
“The last few years we’ve focused our work on the high school; the library, the cafeteria, the tech wing will be next,” he said. “Now we want to focus our attention on middle school and elementary school. We want to modernize the classrooms spaces, not so they look pretty but in regard to their functionality 10 years from now.”
The question facing the administration and the board is deciding what needs to be done and how to get there. The district is considering putting Project 2020 up to voters in the fall rather than as part of the budget vote in May.
“If it’s approved then construction will start in the 2022-2023 school year,” Robinson said. “If we don’t go out (to referendum) this year then you can add three years to whatever delay you have to when it gets done.”
In an update to the board on a possible land purchase, Robinson acknowledged the district has had discussions with some potential sellers of land in the Town of Halfmoon and has had some appraisals done.
“We are waiting to hear back from realtors who are working with some potential sellers,” he said. “The process is ongoing but there are some aspects of it that we don’t control.”
He added that if the two sides come to a financial arrangement the district must still have an engineering study done of the land.
“We want to buy property that doesn’t need a lot of preparation work for our needs,” he said. “If all things can come together in the next six weeks then we can put it up as a proposition at the May budget vote.
He noted that a grant obtained for a land purchase by former Assemblyman Bob Reilly and funds from the sale of the vacant 37 acre parcel to the Town of Clifton Park will go toward the land purchase.