The Shenendehowa Central School District wants to sell about 35 acres of vacant land near its main campus in Clifton Park and use the money to buy property in Halfmoon for a potential future school.
The district has no immediate plans to build a school in Halfmoon, and the current district enrollment doesn’t require one. But Halfmoon is the fastest growing town in the district, with developers building, or asking for permission to build, hundreds of homes in the next several years.
With the area’s expected growth because of its proximity to the GlobalFoundries computer chip plant in Malta and other technology businesses, there’s a good chance the district could see an enrollment jump even though its numbers are flat now, said school Superintendent L. Oliver Robinson.
“We have to start planning now,” Robinson said, adding that it takes between five and seven years to execute a construction plan. The district needs to be prepared before it needs more classroom space, he said.
“We can’t wait until 2020 to decide we’re going to do something.”
The district has been looking for land to buy for about three years, but the challenge is that it has to have money up front or borrow it. A district cannot get state aid for a land purchase until it builds a school, and then it only receives money for the portion where the building sits, he said.
So selling the Clifton Park land would free up funds for the district to buy land in Halfmoon.
The district’s Board of Education on March 26 approved a resolution to begin proceedings to sell 35 acres that make up part of two parcels between Moe Road and Maxwell Drive, off Route 146. The two parcels together total 62 acres, but the district uses some of that land for athletic fields and playgrounds and wants to subdivide the property and sell only the unused portion, Robinson said.
The district would keep much of the land closest to Moe Road, and would put up for sale the portion closest to Maxwell Drive, with the future owners having street access to Maxwell, Moe and possibly Route 146, he said.
The board last week also authorized law firm Cooper Erving & Savage LLP to appraise the property.
For taxing purposes, the town has estimated the full market value of the entire two parcels at $3.6 million.
After doing a survey and appraisal, the district will next have to go through the subdivision process, which could take some time, he said.
The Shen Futures Committee, made up of school district and local officials, has worked to identify potential properties and discuss options and produced recommendations that included finding land in Halfmoon.
“It’s certainly refreshing as a municipality in upstate New York to have them looking for a site, when most upstate municipalities are talking about, ‘Where do we cut; what programs do we get rid of?’ ” said town Planning Board Chairman Stephen Watts Jr., who is on the committee. “It’s a wonderful problem to have.”
Robinson said that in its study the group considered other areas where nanotechnology companies moved in. “Within a 10-year period, a 10-year window, a lot of those communities grew significantly,” he said.
Eastern Clifton Park is largely built out already, and western Clifton Park has available land but is under a building moratorium.
Shenendehowa schools draw students from the western part of Halfmoon, and Mechanicville and Waterford-Halfmoon schools draw students from the rest of the town. There are no Shenendehowa schools located within Halfmoon. With a Shen school in Halfmoon, there might be opportunities for the school district to use town athletic fields and recreation programs, Watts suggested.
Town Supervisor Mindy Wormuth has worked with the district also on future options in Halfmoon.
Housing under construction in Halfmoon includes apartment complexes, developments of single-family homes and separate parcels where people are building houses, Watts said.
“Generally, [the apartment complexes] don’t have a lot of students in them,” Watts said. “Most of the places with kids are in the new developments.”