On April 12, the North Colonie Central School District held its first community education summit with 120 people in attendance. The attendees were a mix of parents, community members, retirees, business leaders, board of education members, teachers, students, support staff, and administrators. At the core, a sharp increase in the district’s enrollment is the driving factor behind the need to develop an educational and strategic vision for North Colonie schools, both physically and academically. A recent demographic study forecasts an additional 939 students enrolling over the next ten years, mostly populating grades K-6. In addition, the Capital District Regional Planning Commission projects that the district will experience 800 new housing units coming online between 2016 and 2020.
During the education summit, teams of attendees spent three hours participating in a visioning process, answering the following questions:
- What skills does the North Colonie 2016 graduate need to succeed in life?
- What skills will the 2026 graduate need to succeed in life?
- What will change in the next decade that will drive the change?
Teams also developed visions for potential future North Colonie schools, focusing on what the schools and classrooms would look like, what teaching and learning would look like, and what the ideal grade configuration would be. As the summit drew to a close, teams had to share their findings. In addition to their vision for teaching and learning, groups were asked to share their ideal configuration for elementary and middle schools. Each group assigned to this task suggested either Pre-K to 5 or K to 5 at the elementary level and 6-8 at a middle school level. Also part of the discussion was the need for updated facilities at the high school level that align with 21st century learning. Parts of Shaker High School have not been renovated since 1958 and 1970.
Other options the district could explore to ease the increase in enrollment at the elementary level would be the construction of a new elementary building or several additions to existing elementary buildings. One other driving force behind the need to make decisions about facilities, is the enhanced building aid ratio North Colonie currently experiences due to the 2008 Maplewood annexation. For capital projects that are funded by long term debt, building aid is based upon the aidability of the work and the aid ratio the district is assigned. The higher building aid ratio expires June 30, 2018. If building contracts are signed prior, the higher aid ratio is locked in for the life of the bond. This will result in millions of dollars in potential savings for tax payers.
While the increase in enrollment certainly presents challenges for the district, it also presents a tremendous opportunity to embark on building projects that will have profound impacts on North Colonie students for decades to come.
“The summit activities provided an excellent forum for the school community to engage in a vigorous and focused conversation about the future of North Colonie schools,” said Superintendent Corr. “These conversations will provide outstanding guidance and direction as we form future plans to address facilities and the increase in enrollment. For me, the opportunity to engage in this work is exciting, invigorating, and rewarding. After 35 years in North Colonie, I have a deep respect and appreciation for our past achievements and look forward to building on that foundation.”
As the district moves forward in its planning process, a website has been designed to host a wealth of information pertaining to this venture. NorthColonieLegacyPlan.com currently features:
- A presentation on enrollment
- The results of the district’s demographic enrollment study
- A program capacity study, which looks at all schools and their program enrollment potential
- A video that was produced to clearly summarize the challenges facing the district
The April 12 community summit will not be the only opportunity for community engagement in this long-range planning process. Future events will be announced in the coming months via SNN and the district website.