Board Insights: Proposed Capital Project Continues Great Work to Serve our Students.
Happy new year to all of our students and Pittsford community! What an incredible first half of the school year we had. December was a packed month with our Power Hour focused on supporting students with anxiety, Candlelight Night in the Village, Pittsford Celebrates Inclusive Schools Week and the launch of our “I Am Pittsford Schools” video. On December 15, we had the opportunity to tour Allen Creek Elementary and see firsthand all of the incredible work that is being done to prioritize student voice and choice at ACE. If you are able to watch the Jan. 10 board meeting you’ll see a great presentation by Principal Mike Biondi describing all the initiatives and work being done at ACE.
Between the school tours, power hours and board meetings over the first half of school year, the energy from our students, staff, parents and community is so positive, and it is clear that everyone is working to make the 2022/23 school year a great one!
Holidays are a time to relax and reflect on both what we value as a community and what we look forward to and prepare for in the new year. As a board, our job is to listen to all the stakeholders in our community, try to understand what is most valued and work to represent those values as we make decisions for the future of our students, staff, families and school facilities. That understanding and reflection of community values is paramount as we move ever closer to the final proposal of our District’s next capital project.
We have heard loud and clear from the community that certain facilities are in need of updates, particularly as it relates to Barker Road Middle School and Mendon High School. A project like this would have started a few years ago, but given the COVID-19 pandemic, that timeline was delayed until now.
As a result, planning and preparation for this project has now been years in the making. The NYS Department of Education requires a regular building condition survey to ensure that our grounds and facilities meet the State standards. While the project that will be presented to the voters for approval includes many critical updates, it centrally focuses on updates related to safety and security and academic excellence and equity. On safety and security, District voters will be asked to vote on secure front entrance vestibules in all buildings, increased security measures for large areas of assembly, emergency power generators, additional security camera coverage, and others. The renovation of Sutherland High School and the construction of Calkins Road Middle School in the 2002 capital project resulted in beautiful, modern, facilities for the students in those buildings. This time, District voters will be asked to vote on an investment in Barker Road Middle School and Mendon High School to provide all of our students access to equitable educational opportunities and facilities. The District just completed a large payment on the prior capital project for Calkins and Sutherland, and now is the responsible time to begin much needed updates to other facilities.
Our community has a clear and consistent track record of turning out to support our schools. Our schools are a source of pride in Pittsford. They attract new and returning residents to maintain the value of our properties and create jobs in our community. We know our community is willing to invest in our schools, but we also recognize that residents across Pittsford and the country are feeling the financial pains of rising prices, rising interest rates and economic uncertainty. Our commitment is and has been to develop a capital improvement plan that maximizes the value we are delivering to the community through complicated State Aid formulas, and minimizing the local share from District taxpayers.
Thankfully, Pittsford is in a better position to do this than most. The AA1 bond rating we have established and maintained over many years enables us to finance a portion of the project at the lowest possible borrowing cost. With the expert guidance of SEI Design Group, Assistant Superintendent for Business Mike Vespi, and many others, the proposal to District residents will be one that maximizes state aid, minimizes local tax contribution, makes responsible use of capital reserves that have been set aside over time, and includes many critical updates to facilities necessary to continue to provide the safe and rigorous educational experience Pittsford residents have come to expect.
In summary, the District has the team and expertise in place to propose a responsible capital improvement plan that will deliver critical updates to our facilities to continue to serve our students.