On March 5, the New Paltz Board of Education adopted a long-range, comprehensive facilities plan, known as the Facilities Capital Improvement Project, recommending $71.4 million in improvements to the four surrounding schools.
The Facilities Capital Improvement Plan is one of the proposed phases of the master plan, which was originally put up to a vote by the board during a Feb. 26 meeting.
Tim Rogers, a member of the board since May 2013, said he initially voted against the Master Plan, presented by KG & D Architects, because he said he didn’t feel ready to “buy into it yet,” despite the detail that accompanied it.
“My feeling was that I wasn’t ready to buy into the [Master Plan] entirely, even though it was a lot of solid information and data,” Rogers said.
The initial motion to approve the Master Plan, made by board member Steve Bagley and seconded by Patrick Rausch, was carried five to two with seven members voting. Along with Rogers, board member Ruth Quinn voted against it, according to meeting minutes Rogers provided.
On March 5, Brian Cournoyer made a motion to adopt Option Three, Phase one of the Master Plan to review at a later date with the architects for “fine-tuning,” Rogers said. The motion passed six to zero, with one member absent, and the second time around, Rogers voted for it.
“The Facilities Capital Improvement Project we have agreed to pursue was one of the proposed Master Plan phases that addresses the District’s near-term renovation and construction needs deemed to be the highest priority,” Rogers said.
Rogers said when reviewing their options, the board took into consideration a combination of factors, including what projects involved the least amount of construction and therefore student interruption, what projects were less likely to displace students and temporarily send them to nearby schools and what was “best” for the taxpayers of the community.
Rogers said the project will receive significant state aid, estimated to pay for more than 50 percent of the overall cost, and that the aid they receive will reduce these amounts.
As of now, Duzine Elementary School will receive $2.9 million, Lenape Elementary School will be given $1.9 million, New Paltz Middle School will receive $37.8 million and New Paltz High School will be the recipient of $12.3 million.
New Paltz High School and Middle School, the latter of which is receiving the most funding, are both currently short of classroom space. This issue has existed for some time and was, in part, the subject of prior unsuccessful projects and bond propositions, Rogers said.
“The lack of space in these buildings affects all of the students in both buildings. Infrastructure concerns comprise a significant portion of the proposed project that include replacement of failing, outdated systems and structures, improvements to indoor air quality, improved handicapped accessibility and other high priority health and safety improvements,” Rogers said. “The Board of Education and its design team are committed to systems and facilities that take a leadership position on issues of energy efficiency and sustainability.”
Rogers said the project’s planning process involves public hearings, reports from administrators, analysis of enrollment projections and building capacities as well as detailed evaluation of all of the district’s buildings by a team of professionals.
The Board of Education had a special Facilities Workshop to discuss the scope and cost of this capital project on March 26, where the board worked from the proposed phase they voted to adopt on March 5.
Rogers, who graduated from New Paltz High School in 1989, said voters will decide on whether to approve the plan by voting yes or no on the estimated cost of the capital project in the voting booth.
He encourages voters to look at the plan, ask questions about why certain decisions were made and trust that the decisions come from a balanced board that “cares deeply about making good decisions regarding taxpayer money and investing in education.”
On March 20, New Paltz community members will be able to weigh in on the project at the same time the budget is voted on.