School Board, residents discuss future space needs

LYNDEBOROUGH – Central School needs more space and about $500,000 worth of repairs and upgrades. Would it be better – and more cost effective in the long run – to build a new school on another site?

That issue was debated Friday night by about 40 people who came to the school to hear a list of problems and options by the School Board. The meeting lasted about two hours and was mainly a presentation of findings by a committee named last summer to study the school and make recommendations.

“Think about this information,” board member Fran Bujak said at the close, “digest it, talk to your neighbors, come up with questions and come back with the best option” to another meeting at Citizens’ Hall on Nov. 15.

He said whatever is recommended at that meeting will be used to formulate warrant articles for the February deliberative session. The first step in either building new or renovating the old would be to hire an architect.

Bujak said the committee was unable to reach a unanimous decision on the best way for the town to go. The committee echoed returns from a townwide survey made last fall, he said.

“The committee must have been pretty representative,” he said.

That survey showed about 31 percent of respondents in favor of a new building, 30 percent in favor of expanding the current school to the limits of the site and 29 percent in favor of “making do with what we have.”

A bond issue requires a two-thirds vote.

Those present at the meeting were equally split, but mainly because of costs. Tax bills were received by most residents earlier in the day. Bujak noted each additional $122,000 of spending adds a dollar to the tax rate.

The options presented included a new school, expansion and renovation of the present building, adding a portable classroom and doing only what had to be done as the situations arose. The committee assumed both the sixth grade and a kindergarten would be housed in the building.

Several options were eliminated by the committee after study: sending the sixth grade to the cooperative school in Wilton, using another town building and going with either the cheapest building or the most expensive.

Bujak said space is needed for the various specialists such as therapists and subjects such as art and music; the special education classroom is too small; there isn’t enough parking for staff and visitors and to separate buses from other traffic; the library is well below state standards; and the kitchen is poorly located from a life-safety standpoint, as it is in the middle of the building on a classroom hallway.

Storage is needed for teacher supplies as well as for coats and boots, which are now kept in halls that are too narrow by state standards.

Bujak listed things that “need to be fixed” and things “that should be fixed.”

The need-to-fix items include:

– Upgrading the parking lot: $80,000.

– Adding fire lanes: $25,000.

– Upgrades to the newest section, which was “poorly built,” Bujak said: $40,000.

– Bringing the boiler room up to fire code: $10,000.

– Ventilation for the old section built in 1949: $88,000.

– Making several windows fire-escape routes: $25,000.

– Upgrading the bathrooms and making them handicapped accessible, upgrading power service and upgrading halls.

Board Chairman Geoff Brock noted several items on the list had already been done: removal of all the asbestos in the building and upgrading the lighting. Some items will be included in the upcoming budget.

The estimated cost for a new building is $2.3 million, which includes the purchase of 8 acres, but not a lot of “amenities.” Total renovation plus expansion was estimated at $1.6 million. A portable classroom with the needed repairs would cost about $785,000.

Bujak said having portables is the least costly way, and it would be good for about 15 years. The portable would be used as a classroom, freeing one regular room in the building.

“Expansion would be the cheapest right now,” Bujak noted, “but we could end up still paying for it while we build a new school. And we’d still have a 50-year-old building.”

“The best bet is a new school, if we can afford it,” Brock added. “(Either way,) we’re going to spend a lot of money. The state will be mandating kindergarten. Going with the expansion and repairs is betting that the population isn’t going to grow.”

The current population is 91, unusually low because the current third grade has only eight members. Historically, classes average in the mid-teens. The current sixth grade has 24 students.

Use of the present building as a police and fire department complex was mentioned several times.

Resident Mark Weisflog summed it up at the end: “We want to impact the education of our children, but we need to meet the needs of the people who pay the taxes. We need to provide a quality education if we can afford it.”