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Watkins considers renovations, consolidation

WATKINS GLEN—During the annual district facilities tour, Monday, Sept. 20, Watkins Glen Superintendent Tom Phillips explained he is looking into the details of consolidating the campuses into one location as part of improvements to the schools.
He explained that the district is doing this as part of the five year building condition survey, which is already mandated and aided through the state.  However, this is something Watkins Glen is only considering right now.  Phillips said the district is already looking at “substantial upgrades and improvements to all of our facilities in excess of $19 million (elementary $4.7 million, middle school $5.5 million, and high school $9.5 million).”
He added in a note to board members that, “I believe it is only prudent in the current economic climate to consider all options in an effort to become both fiscally responsible and explore ways to maximize efficiencies as a district.”
Phillips also said that since the district is doing its building condition survey, it is more cost effective to include looking at potential plans for combining the campuses at the same time.  He said the district will decide in the near future about seeking resident approval in a referendum vote to establish a capital reserve for improvements to all three schools.
Phillips explained that if the district ever sought to close the middle school building, it would first have to do a study, then seek a referendum vote.  He said the community would be involved if the district pursued this option.
If middle school students moved to the other building, the capital project would include increased space.  Along the tour of all three schools, Mike DeNardo, buildings and grounds manager, pointed out different areas in the elementary and high school building where additions could be made.
DeNardo also said the building condition survey is used to evaluate how facilities meet the needs of the district and students.  He added that the district’s building and education needs must align.
As part of looking into consolidation, Phillips presented the board with a packet of information.  In it, he said that pupil enrollment has been declining regularly for five years.  The report also said that due to work at both the high school and elementary, there is extra room there.
It adds, “with some programmatic changes and relocating some things the current fifth and sixth grades could be accommodated in the existing buildings with little or no renovations.”  However, the remaining two grades at the middle school would require new construction to give them space if moved.
Other things looked at include the effect on personnel, which Phillips said would be minimal.  The report said by combining buildings and staff, the district could offer more programs and support with more flexibility of personnel.
In other business:
Board President Brian O’Donnell reported on four former employees who recently passed away:
• Harriett Reasor, former school bus driver, transportation secretary and bus dispatcher who died Aug. 21, 2010.
• Mary Stephno Turner, former Teacher Aide who died Sept. 13.
• Jeannette Hull, longtime Kindergarten Teacher who died Sept. 15.
• Grace Gaige, former Payroll Clerk who died Sept. 17.
The board also approved the following appointments:
• Robert Cole as senior food service helper.
• Michelle Beyler as monitor.



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