Capital project customers talk with superintendent
Sixth graders in Steve Usher's class got a glimpse
into their future along with an opportunity to help shape it when
Schoharie Superintendent David Blanchard met with them about the
proposed capital construction project.
District residents will vote on May 16 on a proposal
to extensively renovate and upgrade Schoharie High School through a
capital project that would also update the elementary school's public
address and heating and ventilation systems.
On March 21, however, the focus of the discussion
was upon changes proposed for the high school, why they are needed and
what the 6th-grade students would experience if the project is approved
"See how your desks are set up in a horseshoe shape
instead of in rows?" Blanchard said to the students. "You can pay
attention, collaborate and learn better this way. We want all of our
students to be able to learn at a high level and receive a world-class
education in Schoharie.
"But imagine," he continued, "if your classroom were
too small to be set up this way. That is a problem we have right now
with a number of high school classrooms. They need to be made bigger."
Blanchard also noted that some areas of the high
school are not accessible to people with disabilities. "A student on
crutches or in a wheelchair cannot easily get to some classes now, and
we also have bathrooms that are not accessible. That is not acceptable."
The students were savvy about the need to care for
and renovate older buildings. They also understood why schools plan for and finance
renovations over time rather than delaying them and being faced with
covering a big, unexpected bill.
The 6th graders' questions for Blanchard were about
the "hows" of the project. How is there space for bigger classrooms?
(Walls would be moved and existing classrooms reconfigured). Would
bigger building supports be needed to do that? (No, the walls to be
taken down are not load-bearing, and the high school is very
Where will students go to school during
construction? (Classes would shift to different rooms while construction
is accomplished in sections over a few years' time). How could the
crawlspace have room to become a hallway? (Besides excavating the space,
old, unused steam pipes would be removed.)
Blanchard talked to the class about how the district
is required by the state to have an architect study its buildings and
how a committee of community members has been working on the proposed
capital project for the past year.
He also spoke with the students about the project's
cost and how a combination of state aid, good finances and proposed use
of reserve funds would mean the project would have very little financial
impact on taxpayers - their families - in the district.