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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, June 25, 2009

Pitter-patter of applause heralds $27M in school upgrades

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — Applause was more persistent than the rain Monday morning as the school district held a groundbreaking ceremony at Guilderland High School.

Voters had passed a $27 million project in November 2007 to upgrade Guilderland’s five elementary schools, improve technology across the district, and move the district offices to the high school. In March, in the midst of the recession, the school board had approved bids for the project that came in under budget by about $2.1 million.

“It’s a very favorable bid market,” Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders told The Enterprise at the time, declaring it “one good thing about the recession.” He noted that the money could be used to reduce debt payments.

The celebration Monday started inside because of intermittent showers and moved out for the symbolic groundbreaking as first board members and administrators and then elementary and high school kids donned hard hats and wielded golden shovels, all the while smiling for cameras.

Superintendent John McGuire said the second-graders from Altamont Elementary represented “students of the future here at Guilderland High School.”

He also quipped that Lin Severance, the district’s new assistant superintendent for human resources, was ready now to move to the new offices. “The last sighting of the vole in her office pushed her over the edge,” he said.

McGuire termed the current offices a “caddy shack”; they are located on the middle school campus off of Route 155. The school was built on what had been a driving range.

He also noted that, over the school vacation in April, work on asbestos removal had begun. He said it went “flawlessly” and hoped the project would continue the same way.

McGuire credited many parties for work on the project. Each was greeted with applause. He named the members of the facilities committee that came up with the initial plan; he introduced the PTA presidents; he named the architects and engineers — CSArch, Excel Engineering, Ryan-Briggs Associates, and J. Kenneth Fraser and Associates — and the representatives from Sano-Rubin Construction Company managing the project; and he introduced Altamont’s mayor, James Gaughan.

The school board president, Richard Weisz, “had to be in court this morning,” said McGuire, hastening to add, “That’s his profession, just to be clear.”

McGuire continued on Weisz’s behalf, “We’re excited about…enhancing our schools,” which shows continued care for the millions of dollars worth of physical plant.

But, he went on, “Today commemorates something more transcendent…the continuing commitment of the Guilderland community at large to the children…This community has well earned the reputation of excellence in education.”

McGuire then called on Gaughan to say a few words. The mayor noted that the Altamont village budget paled before the school budget — $85 million for next year.

“The plumbing is important,” said Gaughan, referring to the infrastructure improvements the project will bring about. He also spoke of the importance of education and said, “I’m most pleased that the future children are represented by the elementary school of Altamont.”

The sounds of Franz Joseph Haydn’s “Finale,” performed by the high school’s sax quartet — Jake Benninger, Jessica Cohen, Daniella Giardina, and Halli Travers — hung in the air as the crowd moved outside to witness the symbolic groundbreaking.

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