School on track for improvements to facilities

NEW SCOTLAND — The school board this week outlined facilities improvements, learned of proposed security changes, and discussed student academic and social policies.


“We’re trying to upgrade the facilities to make it better for our students and our staff,” said Superintendent Brian Hunt.

The school board held a public hearing on using up to $20,000 of the district’s repair reserve fund to replace a failed water heater in the elementary school. No one in the gallery spoke at the meeting.

“It’s a critical need,” Hunt said of the water heater.

Bids for the elementary school bridge project, approved by voters earlier this year, came in too high and were re-bid, he said, pushing the construction period out to spring or summer and the price $21,000 lower.

On Monday, the school board awarded the bridge project to Bast Hatfield with a voter-set limit of $203,000. The bridge goes over the Vly Creek to connect the parking lot to the school grounds for pedestrians.

The district will submit a plan for a voter-approved pool filtration system repair, at a cost after state aid of $29,000, to the New York State Education Department, Hunt said.

As part of Hunt’s strategic planning process, by which he is reviewing the needs of the district throughout the school year, Hunt addressed other, less critical, needs that will soon require attention, he said.

The elementary school roofs leak and are nearly 20 years old, he said, but are still adequate. The playground at the elementary school is 25 years old, he said.

He reviewed the playing fields owned by the district, including the varsity baseball field being renovated now.

“We’ll be able to play home games on our own field,” he said.


Hunt also proposed security-system upgrades, to be reimbursed completely from state funds under the Smart Schools Bond Act, some of which require an architectural design and State Education Department approval.

Among the upgrades are intruder hardware replacements, such as door locks that allow classroom doors to be locked from inside. Hunt said that a school he previously worked in used the hardware.

“It did make for a more efficient lockdown procedure,” he said.

Entrances to all the schools are proposed to have locking inner-entry doors and improved camera views, he said.

“This is the time to upgrade,” he said. Costs for security measures to be reimbursed include 70 percent for instructional training and 30 percent for physical improvements, he said.

New cameras have been installed and more will be installed, he said.

The district plans to allow access to the security camera feeds to the Albany County Sheriff’s Office in emergency situations, Hunt said.

On Wednesday, the district planned with the sheriff’s office an active-shooter drill, described as a “table top” drill, that did not involve students or staff, Hunt said.

In the spring, the district and sheriff’s office will hold a live drill that will involve staff, but not students, he said.

Student opportunities

The board plans to modify its procedure for determining which seniors are designated part of the valedictory class.

Hunt said that the district’s attorney advised that the current policy, which used a staff committee-decision process, was too subjective and “not a legal way of doing things,” he said.

The new procedure must be a board policy; the criteria used previously to evaluate students’ resumes remain the same, he said. For example, the number of Advanced Placement classes taken, whether or not students have two or more sports or extra-curricular activities, and the highest numerical grade averages will still be included in the process, he said.

“Did you meet the criteria or not?” Hunt said, describing the process.

In Voorheesville, students in the top 10 percent of the class, or those with a 94 average or above, are part of the valedictory class.

Board members said that the district is working on a transgender policy for students, but the topic had not yet been placed on the board’s agenda.

However, on Monday the board approved a Gay-Straight Alliance club, and appointed Alynn McTighe to be the club’s unpaid advisor.

Other business

In other business, the school board:

— Approved a fifth-grade writing club, and appointed Michael Burns to be the club’s unpaid advisor;

— Heard from junior Adriana Brusgul about the Model U.N. club’s trip to Brown University in early November. Voorheesville sent 25 students, mostly seniors, to the conference where pupil delegates attended training sessions and worked on committees.

The trip was “extremely important to all the people in this club,” Brusgul said. The club event teaches students about countries they may not have heard of before, she said, and offers experiences in speaking, debate, research, and conflict resolution.

Board member Doreen Saia said that Model U.N. helps students develop writing and debate skills, which are “huge, huge skill sets.” Saia said that the board offered “anything we can do to help that along”; and

— Learned that a spelling bee for students in grades 4 to 8 will be held on Jan. 12.

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