Schenectady County

Schenectady school officials expand building project

Five schools would be closed and Keane might be purchased in the much-expanded building project prop

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Five schools would be closed and Keane might be purchased in the much-expanded building project proposal for the Schenectady City School District.

The project will be voted on by the public at a referendum in January. No date has been set.

The goal is to turn all of the elementary schools into buildings for pre-K through fifth grade. Three middle schools — Oneida, Mont Pleasant and Central Park — would house all of the district’s sixth- through eighth-graders.

Originally, the proposal was to reopen Oneida Middle School in 2016 and close Elmer Elementary School, which has structural problems. But the project has expanded as researchers studied student capacity at the elementary schools.

The proposal now calls for the district to end all of its leases — the district leases Blodgett, FDR and Keane. The first two would be closed. District officials hope to buy Keane from the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese.

They would also close Fulton, which has been used for pre-kindergarten classes. Fulton would close once all pre-K was moved into the elementary schools, which could be later than 2016, officials said.

The district would also build a second story on the newest wing at Howe International Magnet School, which would be used as an elementary school. That story would hold four classrooms.

The building project would also include work at Van Corlaer Elementary School. The school is nearly 100 years old, but “it’s got good bones,” said Robert Hendricks, executive director of Legacy Educational Planning Group, a planning consultant working for the district.

Work on Van Corlaer and Howe would add the additional classrooms needed when Elmer closes, he said.

At the middle schools, Oneida would be completely renovated. Mont Pleasant would get some renovations, too, but mainly for the sixth grade. Currently the school has only seventh- and eighth-graders.

It would get a new entrance, only for sixth-graders. They would be kept in their own wing, with their own administrators, Hendricks said. He stressed he was focusing on keeping them “safe and secure,” both in the building and while entering and exiting.

At Central Park, a K-8 building that used to be a middle school, some work would be needed to turn it back into a middle school. That work would mainly undo the “early childhood” rooms that were built when the school switched to K-8. Science classrooms would also be updated.

District officials are hoping for significant state aid for the project. No dollar figures have been announced yet, but they made it clear Wednesday this will be the first of a multi-phased project.

During the first phase, the district would also look for land for a new elementary school or a building that could be purchased — not leased. If it can find one, Lincoln Elementary School would be closed by the end of the decade, officials said. That school needs a great deal of expensive work to stay open, they said.

Van Corlaer would also need more work, they said.

Overall, the project could have five or more phases. It would change the face of the entire district over the course of 15 years.

In other business, an outside team is touring Mont Pleasant Middle School to develop recommendations for improvement, Superintendent Laurence Spring said. He called it a “diagnostic” visit, telling the school board Wednesday “an outside eye” could help the district.

He also told the board Mont Pleasant Middle School students want their own forum, similar to the one held at the library last week. He said they felt “mischaracterized” and asked the Human Rights Commission to help set up a forum for them.

“I think that’s fantastic,” he said. “I’m really glad that’s happening and initiated by kids.”

No date has been set yet.

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