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Capital project customers talk with superintendent

Superintendent Blanchard talks with Mr. Usher's 6th-grade class

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 and accomplished.

"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 well-built.)

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.









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