NISKAYUNA — Niskayuna Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra Jr. last week staked out a strong position against immediately replacing or repairing the high school track while district officials work out the details of a broader capital project slated for voter approval in December 2020.
Tangorra has acknowledged the track and other athletic facilities in the district are in dire need of updates or replacement. Last week, however, he cautioned the school board against pursuing a capital project that focused solely on athletic facilities ahead of a bigger project. He called it the strongest recommendation he’s made to the board.
“I have not made a stronger recommendation against the board taking action,” Tangorra said at the board’s Aug. 13 meeting. “This is a poor, poor, poor use of taxpayer dollars outside of a plan we have been working on for five years.”
During the same meeting, Tangorra said the district would not be able to host home meets at its deteriorating track next spring and that the district would explore options for hosting its annual Warrior Classic meet at a different location.
It’s not clear what specifically Tangorra was responding to when he made his comments at the meeting, but some board members invoked the desires of some constituents as they pressed Tangorra about whether it was possible to address athletic needs sooner rather than later.
District officials are planning to take a large capital project referendum to the voters in December 2020. That capital project will aim to address growing enrollment and at-capacity schools, remake academic spaces to foster collaboration across disciplines and address millions of dollars in underlying infrastructure needs across the district’s buildings.
Improvements to the high school track and other athletic facilities would be included as part of that larger project, Tangorra said. But that work would still be years off.
“There are some facilities that have been majorly ignored and to think about a shovel not going into the ground until potentially spring of 2023 to remediate some of these issues, it’s hard to stomach,” said board member Greta Jansson, who was elected to the board in May, referring to athletic facilities.
Tangorra said it would be a mistake to move ahead with work on athletic facilities that was not a part of the much larger capital plan, because what the district ultimately does with the track may be impacted by what the district does with the high school or its parking and traffic layout. Capital work on athletic facilities would also compromise what the district would be allowed to spend on subsequent capital work. A project focused on athletics could confuse the messaging around the larger capital project.
Parents and coaches involved in Niskayuna athletics last school year spoke out at board meetings about the district’s athletic facilities, arguing they are inadequate and calling for upgrades. Tangorra said the athletic facilities would be addressed as part of the capital project as he warned the board against doing something sooner.
Board members pressed to see that in planning the larger project, which will require voter approval, architects and district officials aim to make athletic improvements as soon as possible.
“(Let’s see) if there’s a way for the architects to consider in the first phase or in an earlier phase to address athletic facilities,” board member Brian Backus said. “Is there a way in the alignment of pieces to move some of the things that constituents think are high need sooner rather than later?”