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Whenever I set out to begin an article, I take the time to think about how I will obviously deliver all information with accuracy. And I take from Stephen Covey those words of habit No. 2, as I always “begin with the end in mind.”

In doing so, and me being a process-oriented individual, it helps me to know when I feel a certain direction is both fruitful and solid, or if not, it requires me to redirect my thoughts. This is done, time and time again, in order to prevent me from either coming up short or producing something lacking substance, and having wasted precious time along the way. Additionally, it becomes difficult to convince readers that said product is worthy of their attention.

Luckily, such planning has allowed me the ability to stay on message, and not be caught in a cycle of futile attempts with incomplete ideas strewn across my desk.

So as I began to think about how to construct this particular article, that being about our elementary school renovation project, I knew that I both wanted and needed to take a far different approach for the majority of the article.

Lynn Cheche Baker

Lynn Cheche Baker

My rationale for doing this is, in my opinion, simple: It deals with straightforward information, asked by me of our assistant superintendent of business and finance, Peter Colucci. In turn, his answers have been provided after each question posed; hence, a Q&A approach.

When it comes to matters such as this, I have to deviate from the conventional flow that is evidenced throughout many columns that I have happily written for the district. The ending that I began with in my mind will, however, be of a more conventional nature — that being closing thoughts/quotes from Colucci and our building principal, Tim Cowin. So if you will allow me, I will begin, only after wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday!

Q: When did the elementary school projects begin?

A: With regard to the $14.9 million project, initial work at the elementary school in July 2018, with the site work to change the drainage on the south and east side of the building.

Q: What percentage of the monies came/will come from tax payers, grants, etc.?

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A: Schools in New York state can have their building projects subsidized by the state with a large percentage of the eligible cost covered by state aid, and a smaller percentage covered by the local tax base. Typically, a school district will fund a building project with long-term bonds (debt), and receive payment from the state on an annual basis to offset a significant portion of the debt’s principal and interest. This allows school districts to finance large capital projects whenever needed, based on the condition and projected needs of their facilities.

Q: Can you speak in general terms as to what was done throughout the project?

A: The site work and drainage improvements will help to keep the foundation dry and the downstairs space more comfortable. Modification to the space on the ground floor for a (universal prekindergarten) classroom, an improved STEM classroom, instrumental music classroom, occupational and physical therapy space, and a classroom that now is used for before and after care programs is a significant enhancement. Modification and upgrades to the boiler and heating system throughout the building, and new ceilings in many of the corridors and classrooms are also projects that have been completed. Also, the nurse’s office was moved to a newly remodeled space. There was additional work done to improve the secure entrance in the front of the building as well.

Q: How will this project and its elements help to better our school?

A: The school will be safer with regard to the enhanced access control, and will be warmer and more fuel-efficient. Although the building has always been conducive to a great learning environment, the enhancements and improvements made through the project will undoubtedly have a positive impact.

Q: Where there any “surprises” to the project, i.e. finishing ahead of schedule, easier demolition than expected, etc.?

A: Whenever you engage in a construction project throughout an older building, there is an excellent chance that a discovered condition or unexpected complication will pop up to complicate things. With regard to this project, although we found a few things we did not anticipate, the skill of King + King, our architects, and C&S, our construction manager, along with the contractors and school district staff, we were able to address these complications in a prompt and cost-effective manner. The flexibility and commitment of the staff was incredible and speaks well of their commitment to the families and students that are part of the school.

Here, as I kept the end in mind from the very start and saved these culminating thoughts for now, our principal stated, “The main scope of the elementary school renovation is the heating and cooling systems. The new system will keep the temperatures more balanced than did the old steam system. There is no air conditioning, but the air flow will be better with the new units. The basement area was totally redone for a new pre-K space, a new community room, and a new OT/PT room. Almost all of the rooms and halls in the school also received new ceiling tiles and a fresh coat of paint. The building overall looks much brighter due to that, and along with the updated heating system, it will make the school an improved learning environment for the students."

Also, Colucci told me, “It has always been my belief that school buildings are monuments. They are symbols of a community’s pride and commitment to the current and future success of its youth. It is encouraging that the Weedsport community readily supports the district and the students by supporting projects that help to maintain the facilities and create spaces that will help our youth grow. Some people think that a school is just a building. It might be more appropriate to consider a school as a combination of a building and the students, community and staff, which fill it with the commitment to make things better every day.”

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Lynn Cheche Baker is currently a third grade teacher within the Weedsport Central School District and is the owner and instructor of the Successful Steps Tutoring Service in Auburn. She can be reached at (315) 253-0750.

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