The Kingston City School District’s Master Plan Facilities Committee voted unanimously last Wednesday to endorse an $86 million renovation and reconstruction plan, dubbed the “Second Century Capital Project,” for the high school’s Broadway campus. The plan, a hybrid which combines two previously considered options presented to the district’s Master Plan Facilities Committee by KSQ Architects, still includes a new educational philosophy long touted by school officials, but at a considerably reduced price tag. The previously discussed pair of proposals came with price tags of $101 million and $153 million respectively. The two had been discussed as far back as two years ago.
The $86 million plan approved by the committee — and which will have to pass muster with the school board first, then with district residents in a bonding referendum — combines elements of the prior proposals and eliminates some of their more expensive options, including a $20.6 million track and athletic field. The updated plan would involve a measure of demolition, including the entire MJM building and the art and special education areas of Whiston-Tobin, which would be moved into the main high school building. The remainder of Whiston-Tobin would consolidate and rehabilitate the school’s science labs, thus creating a specialized area for that course of study.
A $47 million academic wing reconfiguration would allow the district to create three learning levels, with roughly 700 students per level. This falls in line with the district’s long-touted hopes of adapting the “House Plan,” with smaller learning communities into the district. School board president and outgoing chairman of the facilities committee, James Shaughnessy, said the genesis of what is being proposed goes back even further than 2008.
“That’s part of the reason for the capital project,” he said. “Those strategies were contained in a plan for the high school back in 2004, and when that was abandoned for all the reasons it was abandoned, so were the educational strategies. The current configuration of the high school, the current buildings, really don’t lend themselves well toward implementing those educational strategies. It’s like all these radiating corridors out to the extremities, and it would be easier to implement smaller learning communities if the physical classrooms were more contained or together.”
Full board gets it next week
The committee felt strongly enough about the proposal, including some changes resulting from a community telephone survey conducted from last December through mid-January of this year, to vote 11-0 in favor of sending it along to the Board of Education. A report will be delivered to the Board of Education at their Aug. 4 meeting, with a full presentation by KSQ two weeks later.
“I think that we have a solution that will meet the needs of the children in our district and satisfy the concerns of the community,” Shaughnessy said. “The need for it is obvious if one goes to the high school and sees the condition of some of the facilities. They’re old, there hasn’t been maintenance done for many years in some instances, and the present configuration doesn’t lend itself to implementing teaching method that the administration would like to put in place for coming years. Overall, I think that this plan would provide significant upgrades to the campus that we need, and it would enhance our delivery of educational services.”
KSQ principal Armand Quadrini said the project would take between two to three years to complete. According to Superintendent Gerard Gretzinger, a public referendum on the project is expected by the end of 2010. Quadrini said if approved, the floor plans would be completed within four or five months, with construction beginning between 14-18 months after public approval.
With Shaughnessy’s departure from the chairmanship of the committee, school board Trustee Chris Farrell is now the group’s leader. He said the unanimous support for the new plan is the result of a lot of hard work on the parts of a great many people.
“This committee has been reviewing this whole concept for quite a long time,” he said. “What really assisted us was the community survey that we did. It certainly spoke to the fact that people really want to see improvements in Kingston High School, as do we. Affordability was a key piece, and it really looks at the need for kind of a schools-within-schools concept and having that kind of addressed.”
In addition to the survey, Farrell said that the direction of the committee, which includes members of the general public, was vital.
“The committee itself has a variety of people who I would say are not just cheerleaders for the district,” he said. “They’re people who’ve look at this critically. I like this committee because of that fact; it’s people who are invested in the community.”
“I think that the committee unanimously feels that it’s a very responsible proposal. Everyone on the committee understands that the high school complex is in need of major infrastructure improvements. It’s been delayed and put off for a long time.”
Carnegie will happen, trustees vow
Elsewhere, a possible delay in funding for the conversion of the long-abandoned Carnegie library on the campus of Kingston High into an arts and technology center doesn’t appear to be slowing the project down. With work on the restoration set to begin next month, plans by Kingston mayor James Sottile to divert $50,000 in Community Development Block Grant money initially set aside to help fund the $3.58 million project toward purchasing a bandstand for the Rondout waterfront caused some concern that the Carnegie plans might be delayed. But both Shaughnessy and Farrell said this week they didn’t see that as a problem.
“I don’t think it’s going to slow it down or trip it up at all,” Shaughnessy said, noting that there are other sources of funding involved in the project and that construction estimates came in around $360,000 under budget. “The funding was promised over a four-year period. Even if that’s delayed and it comes a year later, it’s not going to affect the construction time schedule at all.”
“I feel pretty positive about the people who are behind this project,” he said. “They will look for additional money to complete this if need be. I don’t think this will be an obstacle, but it will be another challenge to find other ways of funding it. But I’m very confident.”
Approval of the project in February 2009 came with the understanding that the State Education Department’s share of the financial burden would come in at around 57 percent, or $2,047,069. Sottile’s pledge of $200,000 over a four-year period was based on federal entitlement money eligible to the city, with the remaining funds coming through grants, donations and a lease paid by the district’s partner on the project, the Center for Creative Education.
Should the project proceed on schedule, school officials hope it will be completed in time for the beginning of the 2011-12 school year.