The New Paltz School District Board is currently deciding whether or not to implement renovations to facilities across the district.
While the district hosts many schools with many facilities that are due for upkeep, the project has yet to be decided and is not guaranteed. However, it seems that members of the community are pushing for the project and they are specific about where the money should be spent. At a school board meeting on Nov.15, parents advocated for the project. The athletic department in particular was cited as needing a revamp given the toll that COVID-19 had on student-athletes.
However, the project needs the approval of the district board and there may be cause for hesitation. District superintendent Stephen Gratto points out, “We had a capital project not too long ago.” Gratto continued that they have “been very cognisant of the fact that we’ve already used a lot of taxpayers’ dollars.” That capital project required a $47,450,000 bond.
As superintendent, Gratto “follows the school board’s policies and makes sure the school is run properly” as well as serves as the spokesperson for the board. According to Gratto, nothing has been decided by the board yet, but their ultimate decision will be informed by the community.
The board has no requirement to undertake this project, however. “We could just choose not to do it but there are things that really need fixing so I suspect that we will.” Gratto specified that “The board will listen to proposals and community input and then they’ll decide.”
If the board decides to undertake district-wide renovations, there are many options for how the money could be spent. As Gratto states, it’s not an either/or between renovating departments like athletics and facility maintenance. “The facilities committee is working on coming up with some proposals for the board. A proposal that fixes the bare necessities would be less expensive.” He continued that “the facilities committee will probably present to the board and say ‘Here’s one option and here’s another option, this option is cheaper than that option.’ One option will likely be the bare necessities and one option will probably be the bare necessities plus some athletic facilities.”
New Paltz schools have a wide array of facilities that are overdue for a revamp, while some may simply require maintenance. Maintenance is sorely needed. “The middle school has an elevator that is old enough that we can’t find spare parts for it. So, wherever you look in the district, you will find some things that are really old and some things that are not really old,” Gratto explained “We’re going to try to get to the old ones.”
If the project does gain traction, there will be lots of red tape to cross before its completion, but the board has yet to reach that juncture. Gratto stated that, “The only point we’re at right now is for the board to decide what level of capital project they would like to address anywhere from nothing to the bare bones to the bare bones plus facilities.”
“The board is going to have to make decisions as to what they think the community will support.” Gratto also mentioned that undertaking a project such as adding a pool to the high school, which was brought up during the Nov. 15 board meeting, would be extremely expensive. While the project may not include renovations as drastic as that, any of the options would nonetheless be an upgrade for facilities and students, district-wide.
Community members can voice their opinions at the board meetings. “All board meetings are meetings held in public; they’re private meetings, but they’re held in public in the New Paltz Central School District at the beginning of each of their meetings, community members are given a chance to comment on agenda items if they would like to, and at the end of the meeting they give them a chance to comment on anything that they heard during the meeting,” said Gratto.
The board meeting held on Nov. 15 was not a capital project meeting, but “simply a regular board meeting” said Gratto, but some in attendance brought up the issue of the potential renovations, a display of the care that the community has regarding how, and what, the money will be spent on if anything.
Outside of meetings, the board has provided opportunities for the community to weigh in. “We had surveys, we had conversations, and we’ll continue to do so,” Gratto said. “We’re always interested in what the community has to say.”
Those looking to stay up to date on the renovation and other district developments may be able to stay informed of the comfort of their home as well, with Gratto stating he is “writing a summary at this very moment about where we are with things. It’ll be discussed in the facilities committee, likely it will be brought to the board. We try to keep everybody well-informed, so we will be putting it out.”
Due to the scope of options, a timeline for the proposed renovations can’t be established until a decision has been made, according to Gratto it’s simply however long it takes to get the renovations done as of right now. He noted that it’s important to remember that the board has yet to actually approve a project, and nothing is underway as of yet.
Right now, Gratto said, they’re “proceeding slowly. We’re just taking our time and looking at all options.”