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Community town hall meeting Q & A

| June 2, 2016

On June 1, about 100 people attended a town hall meeting at Shaker High School. The steep increase in enrollment at the elementary level was discussed, as well as the Board of Education’s plan to move the sixth grade to the junior high school in the next 3-4 years to address this problem. Click here for the overview presentation that was given. In addition,  a webpage has been created that is solely dedicated to this project and all it entails, titled North Colonie Legacy Planning. The page includes information on the district’s enrollment forecast, a demographic study that was completed this past winter, and videos pertaining to the April community education summit and June town hall meeting. 

Below is a list of questions from audience members that a panel answered to the best of their abilities at this time. This list will continually be updated as the district moves forward in this building project process.

Q: When will the bond go to vote and is there a timeline for project completion?

The bond will go to vote on or about December 15, 2016. The following is a tentative timeline thereafter and is subject to change:

  • North Colonie and CS Arch complete plans and specifications: December 2016-September 2017
  • The NYS Education Department reviews plans and specifications: September 2017-March 2018
  • Bid openings for general building contracts: May 2018
  • Awarding of bids and signing of general contracts: June 2018

Project work/completion:

  • Junior high school: September 2018-September 2019
  • Elementary additions: TBD
  • Elementary renovations: two summers at each building
  • High school: June 2019-August 2022
  • Pre-K: TBD

Q: When will sixth grade move to the new junior high school?

We tentatively plan for the sixth grade to move to the junior high school in September 2019.

Q: Why not construct a new elementary building?

A viability assessment was conducted by Weston and Sampson, an environmental and infrastructure engineering firm, of the district’s two possible land sites for new elementary schools. In brief, the findings concluded that the Henkes Lane site (also called the “Pruyn site”) is not viable for building due to the wetlands that run throughout the property. In order to even consider building on that site, the district would need a formal wetland delineation completed by a core of engineers, a project that would not only be costly, but take years to complete.

Land that the district owns located off of Boght Road was also assessed. That site was found to be a more viable option, but not without obstacles. The study found the narrow access to the site itself could make entry and exit challenging, and state aid on new construction would be substantially less than the aid on renovation work, approximately 45 percent to 69 percent, respectively. In addition, building a new elementary school would create inequity among schools throughout the district and require a large re-districting process of the current neighborhood schools.

Q: Has the district considered selling the parcel of land off Henkes Lane to increase money for renovation?

We are looking at the possibility of doing that and the school district’s attorneys are examining it as well

Q: How long will teachers and students have to live with construction?

While the construction schedule is yet to be determined, there are several important factors to know. The district and construction manager will do everything in their power to minimize disruption to the educational process.  In addition, there are Commissioner of Education regulations that govern school construction projects, including noise levels, safety & security of students and staff, and dust levels. When necessary, contractors will be asked to work after normal school hours to minimize the impact upon teaching and learning.  

Q: Can you renovate Maplewood?

CS Arch, an architecture and engineering design firm, completed a study of a potential renovation of the Maplewood building, which was annexed in 2008. The classrooms, as currently configured, do not meet state education guidelines for square footage for elementary classrooms. Therefore, if the building was to be renovated, the classroom space would need to be expanded, yielding only six usable classrooms. The full cost for the renovation would be approximately eight million dollars, for very little space in return.

Q: What will be done to ease the transition of the first sixth grade class in the junior high school (the musical, graduation, yearbook, etc.) The children look forward to their final year of elementary school. How will you protect those experiences for them?

We have planned three days in June at Siena College where we will examine how we will educate sixth graders and how we will transition them to a middle school experience. In addition, we recognize that experiences may, and in fact will change for our sixth grade students. We will continue to plan for sixth grade experiences and take all of these concerns into account.

Q: Will the transition affect the student-teacher ratio for sixth graders?

It is our goal as we move sixth grade out of the elementary schools and into the junior high school to more evenly distribute class sizes among the sixth grades. With sixth graders located in one building, this is more possible than ever before. In addition, we will work to build capacity with both faculty and space to keep class size at a more manageable level than what currently exists.

Q: What will happen to the existing sixth grade teachers?

The existing sixth grade teachers may choose to go to the junior high school or request to stay in the elementary program and teach in another grade.

Q: I have trouble imagining sixth graders being comfortable and safe riding a bus with 17-18 year old students. Has the district considered doing a separate bus run for the new 6-8 middle school?

The district is considering a separate bus run and may be compelled to do so as a result of a NYS Department of Transportation traffic study. NYSDOT believes the addition of a separate run could mitigate traffic issues in and around the junior high-senior high complex.

Q: If there is such an enrollment crunch, where are you looking to house Pre-K?

The first priority is to accommodate the growth in enrollment by adding instructional space. However, during the community education summit in April, there was a significant amount of support to add a Pre-K program. Therefore, the option of adding an addition to the Goodrich building to house Pre-K is being explored.

Q: What about upgrades for the high school to bring it into the 21st century?

Much of the high school has not been renovated since it was built in 1958 or in 1970 when an addition was built. During this process, we plan to focus on enhancement of the high school’s auditorium, music and art facilities, science laboratories, CTE classrooms, the library, and physical education facilities. We need to create spaces that allow students to engage in problem solving, multi-disciplinary learning, collaboration and project-based learning. A significant portion of the bond issue will be designated for upgrades to the high school.

Q: How will sixth  grade students be integrated into the junior high? Will they be included in the hall system that is currently in place?

This is a question that we need to discuss and resolve as part of the three meetings that are scheduled in June at Siena College.

Q: What are you going to do with the overcrowding while we wait for the school expansions?

This is an issue that we are constantly monitoring and addressing on a daily basis. We will look to use every available space that exists within our elementary buildings. In addition, we will look at class size at each of the buildings and each of the grades to monitor, and where necessary, re-zone new families as they enter into the district. Please note, we are committed to keeping all families and all siblings within the same elementary school.

Q: Will recess be added for sixth grade students?

This is an issue that we will need to look at as we build a schedule and program for sixth grade students. Certainly we value the importance of activity and movement during the school day for the well-being of our sixth graders and all of our students.

Q: How would the athletic programs be structured?

Sixth graders, per NYS rules and regulations, cannot participate in interscholastic athletics. However, we would look to create a full program of intramural activities in multiple sports to provide our sixth grade students with athletic opportunities.

Q: Have you informed the Town of Colonie Planning Board of the district’s enrollment situation? New construction of residences needs to slowed considerably.

The Superintendent will be relaying concerns that were raised during the June 1 town hall meeting at Shaker High School to Supervisor Paula Mahan. In addition, the district has met with town officials and informed them of the enrollment issues. Supervisor Mahan was in attendance at the April 12 community summit and participated in the visioning and planning process.

Q: With a potential change in schedule, could a junior high student still play a high school sport?

If a change in schedule occurs, we would work with our athletic department to accommodate all 7th and 8th grade students who intend to play interscholastic sports.

Q: Once sixth grade moves, it seems like there would still be enrollment disparity among the elementary schools. Is that a good time to consider redrawing school boundaries?

Currently, we have no plans to substantially re-draw boundaries. We have started to identify “swing zones” in order to create enrollment balance in all grade levels at all elementary schools, and sometimes send students from new families to buildings that are different from their anticipated neighborhood assignments.

Q: Are there any plans for new/updated security for schools?

This will be addressed at each and every building. We will be looking at research and best practices regarding school security for each of our buildings and incorporate those practices into the renovation plans.

Q: Could sixth graders potentially be moved to the new junior high school mid-year?

We will work diligently with our architects and our construction management firm to achieve a September 2019 opening of the new junior high. This will be a very high priority for us. That being said, there are a number of variables that we will not be able to control: weather, availability of materials and labor, and current enrollment factors in 2019. These variables may necessitate a move of the sixth grade in a month other than September. However, it is to be emphasized that a September 2019 opening would be a focus and a top priority for this project. As always, the district will make its decision in the best interest of all students and their well-being.

Q: How will you support the incoming sixth graders who will transition to the junior high school the same year as the incoming seventh graders?

We currently have an excellent transition program in place for sixth graders moving into seventh grade. It would be incumbent on us to adopt many of these procedures that we know to be successful. The transition program will apply to the incoming sixth and seventh graders who will make the transition in 2019. We will have many years to begin this planning process.

Q: Are you looking at green building?

Yes, we are.

Q: Will construction at the junior high school be a priority before the renovations to the elementary schools or high school?

The construction at the junior high school will immediately address the enrollment and overcrowding issues at the elementary schools, and therefore occur first.

Q: Does the high school follow a block schedule? If not, would the vision include possibly moving to a block schedule at the high school?

The high school currently does not follow a block schedule. However, an examination of the current schedule will be part of the high school planning process.

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