- Grade reorganization (pending approval from New York State Education Department)
- Relocate 6th grade to the Junior High School wing (September 2016)
- Relocate 2nd grade to MCSIS (September 2017)
- Relocate PK-1 to MCSIS (September 2019 or 2020) and Sale of John L. Edwards Primary School (although not part of the proposed Capital Project, the future sale of JLE is a possibility as HCSD considers its long-term vision)
- Construct 400m track, turf football/soccer field, and baseball field/bleachers
Where will the money come from?
Of the total $19.9 million (maximum), HCSD can afford to put $1.5 million cash down. Most of the remaining cost will be covered by borrowed bonds, and much of the under roof costs will return to the district in the form of state aid (approximately 71.4%).
There will be minimal taxpayer contribution. Taxpayers would be responsible for the remaining percentage of the cost, contingent on voter approval. The local property taxes are estimated to increase by approximately 6-16 cents per $1,000 of assessed value, equaling 6-16 dollars per year for a home valued at $100,000 (dependent on STAR exemption). This increase would take effect in the 2019-2020 school year.
How does this project improve and support education at HCSD?
Vision 2020 includes academic, athletic, and facility improvements. We are engaged in continuous improvement strategies to raise the bar, close the gap, align curriculum & instruction and promote social/emotional development. Aside from the advantages of teacher collaboration and shared resources, research indicates that grade reorganization and schools with broader grade-spans may lead to improvements in student performance as well as “more stable relationships among educators, students, and parents" (download list of research references).
Broader grade-spans and reducing the number of building transitions can strengthen the consistency of academic programs and instructional practices. Education research has shown that school-to-school transitions can be disruptive to curriculum and the learning process. One goal of the proposed capital project is to reduce the number of building transitions from three to two.
Several studies suggest that fewer school transitions can foster more stability in learning environments and lead to more positive educational outcomes. Also, broader grade-spans and fewer school-to-school transitions were shown to positively influence graduation rates and decrease drop-out rates (download list of research references).
How will grade reorganization lead to program improvements?
There are many advantages to grade reorganization. Grade reorganization makes academic sense because it will line up with the Common Core grade band of 6-8, allowing the JHS to achieve grade level alignment with the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Even without considering the alignment to the CCSS, providing students with multiple years of departmentalized curriculum better prepares them for secondary-level expectations.
Another benefit of having Grades 6-8 in one location will be the availability of shared resources that would help strengthen instruction and learning. There will be more opportunities for teachers to collaborate and better prepare students for secondary-level work. The same can be said for moving Grade 2 to MCSIS, where teachers will be able to collaborate and share resources with the goal of better preparing students for state exams, College and Career in the 21st Century.
Additionally, by relocating Grade 6 to the JHS, students will likely have a sense of belonging (rather than entering one year and exiting the next), which fits into HCSD’s mission of fostering the social and emotional development of students.
Why reorganize grades and consolidate schools?
Reducing the number of building transitions our students make will bolster the cohesion of our academic programs and instructional practices.
Over the last 10 years, the school-aged population within our district has decreased nearly 20% and it is projected to continue a downward trend over the next few years. Decreasing enrollment is a trend that has been seen by several districts, local and statewide, and it has led to an imbalance at each of our school buildings.
By “right-sizing” our district, the district can save money in the long run so taxpayers don’t need to pay for any more space than they have to. The expenses to maintain multiple buildings can be large, and there are operational efficiencies to having a central location. Based on the operational cost per square foot of space (approximately $1.50/sq. ft.), the district would ultimately save around $112,000 per year over time by reducing to two campuses.
Through consolidation, the district can be more efficient in terms of space, energy usage, continuity of programming, and shared resources.
Why is the district proposing a capital project at this time?
The district recently completed its mandatory 5-year building condition survey that identified several areas in need of maintenance/repair or replacement, which are included in the project.
The timing of the project is designed to take advantage of retiring existing debt service. There is money available from the state to assist with building projects. With voter approval, approximately 71.4% of the cost would be returned to HCSD in the form of state aid.
The district also recognizes the trend of declining enrollment and is considering consolidation to reduce to two campuses that are in harmony with grade level alignment with the Common Core State Standards.
How much construction is required to reorganize grades?
Little to no building construction is required to house Grade 6 in the JHS. Currently there are either open classrooms or rooms with very small classes in the west wing of the JHS. Grade 6 can easily fit in the available square footage at the JHS.
There is sufficient space at MCSIS to hold Grade 2, therefore only renovations (and not new construction) are necessary. The first and second floor quads of MCSIS will be remodeled to accommodate the needs of Grade 2 teachers and students. This would include swapping lockers for instructional space and adding cubby spaces in classrooms.
The relocation of Grades PK-1 would require construction and renovations to MCSIS. The addition of a “primary wing” (approximately 18,000 square feet) would be built to properly accommodate the physical and educational needs of our youngest learners.
Additionally, two new “playscapes” are anticipated to be installed at MCSIS so that play equipment will be separate and age-appropriate.
What if enrollment starts to increase again? Would the district be equipped to handle that with just two buildings?
Yes. An increase in enrollment would not be a surge; rather it would likely occur as a steady increase over time. The technology wing at MCSIS, which would be renovated to accommodate Grade 2, is built on a concrete slab. This means it can support a second story if necessary. The new primary wing would be constructed on a similar slab to maintain the possibility of adding a second story in the future.
How (and when) would this project impact specific age groups of students?
This image shows how and when specific groups of students (based on school grade) would be affected by the reorganization component of the proposed Capital Project:
Will grade levels still be reorganized if the project does not pass?
Because there is enough existing space in the JHS to house Grade 6, the only thing required to move Grade 6 from MCSIS to the JHS is approval by the New York State Education Department. The same is true for relocating Grade 2 to MCSIS.
In order to relocate the rest of the primary grades (i.e., Grades PK-1) to MCSIS, the construction of a new "primary wing" is required--the financing of which is subject to voter approval. If the project does not pass, Grades PK-1 will not be able to relocate to MCSIS at this time.
When would the work take place?
Grade 6 would be moved to the JHS for the 2016-17 school year (no construction or renovations are needed). Because this project is still in the developmental stages, only tentative dates of construction can be given.
MCSIS renovations, pending NYSED Facilities approval, would likely start during 2016 or 2017. Grades PK-1 would not move to MCSIS until 2019 or 2020.
How will grade reorganization affect school staff?
At this point in time, there will be only minimal impacts to school staff (e.g., certain teachers working with Grade 3 - 6 students may have to travel between MCSIS and JHS). There are no plans to reduce staff at this time, however each budget year warrants a careful assessment of staffing levels based on student needs.
How will grade reorganization affect transportation, including student who walk to school?
Currently, a wide range of ages ride buses together since transportation is based on where students live rather than separated by individual school. In this regard, grade reorganization will have little to no effect on transportation. Because this project is in the developmental stages, other effects that grade reorganization may have on transportation are still being analyzed. The district is in the process of analyzing its current transportation routes to make sure our students are sufficiently serviced and there is minimal disruption to the transportation routine.
Additionally, the district is working with city officials and is focused on maintaining a safe route for students who walk to school.
How does this project improve safety and security?
Currently the district is concerned with the traffic flow directly in front of the High School campus. At the Jr./Sr. High School, the bus loops and parking lots would be reconfigured to provide better traffic flow and increased separation between walkways and vehicle traffic to make arrival and dismissal times safer for pedestrians.
The construction of the track and relocation of the football and baseball fields to the High School campus will be safer for student athletes, as well as physical education classes. Its location at the High School campus means our track team will no longer have to be transported to other districts for practice and “home” meets. The new track will be made from modern materials that provide a safe running surface.
The relocation of Grade 2 to MCSIS (September 2017) will ease overflow and congestion at JLE, especially in terms of building versus parking/traffic capacity. The proposed relocation of Grades PK-1 to MCSIS (2019-2020) would ease safety concerns over crossing issues currently experienced at the intersection of Carroll, State, and Fourth streets near JLE.
Why build a new track and football/soccer field and add a baseball field?
Our fields are generally worn out by mid-season, and the upgrades proposed here include more durable playing surfaces to increase their access and availability to our school’s athletic and physical education programs as well as the community. Varsity athletes should play on the High School campus where the equipment is stored, reducing the need for transferring between the schools.
The existing track, located behind MCSIS, is not useable for practice or track meets, requiring athletes to be transported to other districts for these purposes. This project would construct a 400-meter track at the High School campus and include new bleachers and concession stand. With a safe, durable track, students will have a place to practice and will be able to host home meets. The new track would be surfaced with a resilient material that meets NYS Public High School Athletic Association standards and provides a safe running surface.
The wider track would allow more field space for all athletic teams, including soccer, to host home events and league and sectional championships. It may also lead to the strengthening of our athletic program and more opportunities for students to receive athletic scholarships for track/field, football, or soccer. This part of the project is anticipated to be completed for the 2017-18 school year.
The new track will be available for community use. The walking track behind MCSIS will also be maintained for continued community use.
I heard the project will put air conditioning in classrooms, is this true?
The Jr./Sr. High School already has air conditioning and the capital project will replace the chiller units responsible for the A/C with more energy efficient models. The chiller units at MCSIS will also be upgraded to more energy efficient models, and the system will be expanded to include more classrooms at the Intermediate School.
What would happen to JLE if it is sold?
The potential future sale of JLE is not included in the proposed capital project. If the district decides to sell the building, the future plans for the JLE building would be up to the buyers. Whatever revenue is received must be applied to existing debt.
How much planning went into this project?
The Board of Education began working with professional architects and engineers in the summer of 2015 to conduct the mandatory 5-year building condition survey.
In late summer 2015, architects met with district leaders to list potential items to include in a project. The BOE facilities committee then spent several months reviewing all the items and scaling the scope of the project.
During the fall, the entire Board reviewed the scope and then finalized the items to be included in the project at its December 14th meeting.
What happens if the Capital Project does not pass?
As a school district, having some debt is actually a good thing. If the project is not approved, a declining debt service could result in a negative tax levy impact in the future. Like most public school districts, HCSD relies on state aid as well as a local share of taxes in order to function. With a negative tax levy and the absence of debt service, the district could face cutting programs and staff due to its inability to ask for any local share to supplement what state aid it does receive to support our school district.
Additionally, there would still be critical issues that need to be addressed such as bus loop safety, worn out bleachers, energy efficiency, and insufficient athletic facilities.
End Note: Download list of research references
The vote is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016 (between the hours of 12:00 noon - 9:00 PM)
(Last updated on February 2, 2016)