Saratoga County

District having no luck finding site

The Ballston Spa School District is having a hard time finding land for a new elementary school c

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The Ballston Spa School District is having a hard time finding land for a new elementary school complex, even as it discusses the opportunities that high-tech development in Malta could bring.

“It’s been much more difficult than we ever anticipated,” Board of Education President Kathy Jarvis said of the land search.

The Board of Education met Wednesday with the Malta Town Board to talk about pending high-tech development in Luther Forest, and how the school district and town can cooperate in preparing for it.

Town officials have a long-standing interest in getting the Ballston Spa district to locate a new school in Malta. Currently, the district’s five school buildings are all in the immediate vicinity of Ballston Spa, though the 4,400-student district stretches from Rock City Falls to Saratoga Lake.

But school officials said they’ve looked for land in Malta and throughout the district, without success so far.

“We have looked at several sites in Malta. None of them has panned out,” said Board of Education member Patrick Leanza.

The district is looking for 50 to 100 acres — enough land for two elementary schools, looking to the long-term future, Leanza said.

The district plans to stop using the aging Malta Avenue school in Ballston Spa as a classroom building, replacing it with a new school.

The site-search difficulty, district officials said, is that the land needs access to public water and sewer, must be at an affordable price, and not contain extensive non-developable wetlands.

“Trust me, we have looked everywhere,” Jarvis said.

District Superintendent Ray Colucciello said the district has also seen land the district was interested in bought out from under it by developers.

“We know there’s land available now that won’t be there in five or 10 years,” he said.

Town Supervisor Paul Sausville said he’d be willing to work on a task force to help find local land.

But even while having trouble finding a new elementary school site, school officials are talking about starting a technical high school to help train students for high-tech work.

With development of both the Luther Forest Technology Campus and the Saratoga Technology and Energy Park on adjoining land in Luther Forest, they said the district will need to meet a demand for high-tech workers.

Up to 12,500 people could work at the two industrial parks once they’re fully developed, and the good jobs will require either two- or four-year college degrees.

“It’s an exciting time for the school district and the whole region,” Jarvis said. “Our students will be competing with countries around the world, and we need to prepare them for that.”

District officials have had talks with Advanced Micro Devices, Hudson Valley Community College and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, Jarvis said. They all are involved in or are planning to local facilities in the technology parks. They could all provide internships or classes for Ballston Spa students, Jarvis said.

The district is already discussing expanding its foreign language instruction and bringing new technologies into classrooms, Colucciello said.

How all the improvements will be paid for isn’t yet clear, but district officials said the $10 million to $12 million annual property tax payment expected from an AMD computer chip plant may not be a total windfall to the district.

By increasing the value of property in the district, the AMD plant will also reduce the district’s level of state aid, district officials said, though it’s too soon to know how much.

This was the first official meeting between the school board and the Town Board in a number of years, though both sides said they want to continue working together.

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