Mohonasen officials are planning an ambitious $48.2 million capital project that would construct a 42,500-square-foot “advanced technology” building that the district would share with other educational institutions.
The $16 million Advanced Technology Regional Education Center would be constructed on land adjacent to the high school that was purchased in 2010. Preliminary plans call for an electric lab, a machining lab, a black box theater, a 200-seat auditorium and a nanotechnology lab with a simulated clean room.
In addition to housing Mohonasen’s Mo-Tech programs — hands-on courses combining classroom learning with real work experiences — space in the education center would host programs for Capital Region BOCES and Schenectady County Community College. Superintendent Kathleen Spring said the unique partnership between the district, BOCES and the community college would provide a seamless avenue for students at Mohonasen to move from high school classes into associate-degree programs.
Unique in Region
“We believe this plan is unlike any other in the region,” she said. “By having high school and college programs geared toward very specific areas of training … in modern academic work spaces, we will be bringing invaluable opportunities to our students.”
The project includes an $8.6 million six-bay transportation facility, which would replace the aging one now on the Mohonasen campus. The new structure also would include a bus wash and an office space, while the old building likely would be demolished for parking space.
The proposal would convert Mohonasen’s football field from grass to artificial turf. Other improvements would occur at all four district school buildings, ranging from basic infrastructure work to an expansion of the gymnasium at Pinewood Intermediate School
State aid would cover 75 percent of the total cost, leaving a local share of about $18.7 million. With revenue from both BOCES and the community college leasing space, Spring said the cost to taxpayers would be significantly diminished.
For instance, the owner of a home assessed at $150,000 would pay about $20 more in school taxes annually. Spring said these payments would decrease after the first five years of the bond.
The district also is seeking grant opportunities to lessen the tax impact on residents. Mohonasen, BOCES and the community college recently applied for a $2.5 million Empire State Development Grant to lower construction costs for the education center.
Today, members of the district’s Board of Education will vote on whether to send the proposal to voters this year. If it approves a referendum, the proposal will be put to voters on Nov. 11.
Opportunities for SCCC
Penny Haynes, SCCC’s vice president of academic affairs, said Mohonasen’s capital project would provide a unique opportunity for the college to expand programs onto a high-school campus. Though the community college offers credit for classes taught at area districts, the education center would offer space for post-high school courses.
“It really will provide us with an opportunity to reach more people,” she said.
The new proposal is slightly more expensive than one pitched to voters three years ago. At the time, the district was hoping to add the new bus garage, renovate the high school’s science and technology classrooms, and expand the middle school media center.
But district residents balked at the cost. The $43.4 million project carried an annual tax impact of about $40 for the owner of a home assessed at $150,000.
Voters handily defeated the measure by a 2-to-1 margin. District official faulted the poor national economy for the lack of support for the measure.
Spring said feedback from the last referendum suggested voters were still interested in improving the district, just not at such a high impact on their taxes. She said the new proposal presents a project that will modernize Mohonasen’s campus and is arranged in a manner the helps broaden its educational offerings while reducing the cost impact on taxpayers.
“We’ve always been efficient and we’ve always been creative,” she said. “We definitely see this as something we need to consider to give the students in our community more opportunities.”