Thank you to everyone who took part in this week’s capital project ThoughtExchange. We had 197 participants, 98 thoughts and 4,588 ratings.
The ThoughtExchange was launched to provide the community with an opportunity to ask questions and/or express their thoughts prior to the capital project proposal vote on Thursday, October 7. The questions that were most frequently asked have been compiled and answered below. If your question was was not answered below, it’s likely the information is on the capital improvement project page on the district website.
Thank you again for your input and perspective.
Social and Emotional Benefits
Can you discuss the mental health benefits to outdoor learning spaces?
Outdoor learning spaces in the capital proposal include outdoor classroom pavilions, playgrounds, and a turf field and track. Children greatly benefit developmentally from being outdoors. Outdoor education and play supports emotional, behavioral and intellectual development. Studies have shown that students who learn outdoors develop: a sense of self, independence, confidence, creativity, decision-making and problem-solving skills, empathy towards others, motor skills, self-discipline and initiative. Playgrounds build core strength, teach balance, enhance students’ cooperative skills and promote healthy growth. Outdoor learning and access to nature can also diminish the stress levels of students and teachers.
Outdoor Classroom Pavilions
Outdoor pavilions I assume are for outdoor learning. Will there be corresponding curriculum work? Want to make sure structures are used regularly rather than only because of the pandemic.
Having pavilions is not outdoor education. How about gardens, landscaping, trails, weather forecasting, composting, astronomy? We need real outdoor education.
GCSD students already have access to a lot of outdoor learning through the butterfly station, ponds, gardens, and courtyards. There are many places all throughout the district where teachers are taking students outdoors to be in nature and to learn about nature. The outdoor classroom pavilions will be another venue — with access to technology — for that type of learning but will also be a venue for any type of instruction; use of the outdoor classroom pavilions will not be restricted to “outdoor” lessons.
Since GHS and FMS are so much bigger than the elementary buildings, will their outdoor classrooms be larger? It’s a question of equity.
The outdoor classroom pavilions will all be approximately the same size however the furniture they will be equipped with will be developmentally appropriate. For example, furniture at the high school will be bigger than the furniture at the elementary schools.
Outdoor learning spaces — I love this idea, but will they be heated?
The outdoor spaces will not be heated however we anticipate they will be used through much of the school year, except on snowy and rainy days. The courtyard spaces the district already has are used very frequently by students throughout the year.
What are the AES playground upgrades?
Does the new playground equipment include rubber chips or wood chips?
It is too early in the process to answer the above questions as specific designs have not yet been created. Should the capital improvement project proposal be approved by voters, the district’s architect, engineering and construction firm will begin the design process, which can last six to nine months. It is during this phase that specific playground equipment needs will be evaluated, taking into consideration age-appropriate and ADA-accessible equipment. The type of ground cover will also be evaluated during this stage of the process.
Turf Field and Track
Have the school board and administration done your due diligence on the environmental and health impacts of the plastic grass you are proposing?
The New York State Department of Education sets rigorous standards for the condition of school buildings and their properties to ensure the safety and security of students across the state. These standards extend to capital improvement projects and the items proposed. If an item proposed a danger to school children or did not meet their standards, NYSED would not permit this item to be included in a capital improvement project. GCSD, as part of its due diligence, has reviewed studies analyzed by NYSED in addition to consulting with the district’s architect, engineering and construction firm.
Where does the field hockey team get $12,000 a year to rent Afrim’s turf? Who pays for the transportation for the players to get there for games and practice?
The field hockey booster club raises the funds to rent turf field space at Afrim’s through their own fundraising efforts, and they’re not the only booster club to do so. Boys’ and girls’ lacrosse booster clubs raise funds to rent turf fields for their teams as well. Transportation for players to get to and from Afrim’s is provided in a variety of ways, including through district buses, outside transportation services and private transportation. The district has paid for this transportation.
Is it even smart to build a new track around a new turf field? When there is a track meet or practice, how can a game be held on the turf field in the middle?
A field netting system is included in the capital project proposal, which includes protective netting behind the end lines (goal areas). Also included is netting in the corners that extend to approximately the 10-15 yard line. The purpose of this netting is to provide protection for all lacrosse shots on the goal area. Therefore, we are confident that a track practice can be held safely at the same time as a lacrosse game. It is anticipated that the space will not be double booked during a track meet, as there typically is a lot of traffic in the midfield area during a track meet.
How will it be determined what teams use the turf? Do games take precedent over practices? How will this be scheduled?
The Athletic Director will coordinate scheduling time on the turf field. All football, field hockey and lacrosse games will be scheduled to be played on the turf. We will schedule a select number of soccer games on the turf (senior night games, special games, etc). We will also have the option of moving soccer games onto the turf when grass field conditions are unplayable. After games are entered into the schedule, the Athletic Director and coaches will meet at the beginning of the season to coordinate a turf schedule for practices that is equitable across all programs. Once games and practices have been scheduled, the Athletic Director will open the field to community groups interested in renting time.
The proposal says money can be raised by charging to use the turf field by community and recreation groups. Where will the money go from those fees? Who will benefit from any money collected? How and who decides how it is used? Estimates for how much money can be brought back in each year?
Should voters approve the capital improvement project proposal, the district will determine how the revenue generated from the rental of the turf field will be utilized. One possibility is using the revenue to maintain and eventually replace the turf field in 12-15 years. It’s difficult to estimate how much money rental of the turf field will generate until interest from community groups can be gauged.
Infrastructure and Building Environments Improvements
Will indoor spaces be updated or just new outdoor classrooms?
Yes, indoor spaces will also be updated. The majority of the $21.8 million proposal — $12,750,752 — is devoted to necessary work, including upgrading or replacing heating and ventilation systems, bathrooms, classroom cabinetry and storage, roofs, lighting, windows, flooring, lockers and security systems.
If the total is $21.8 million and the state reimburses 67%, does that mean Guilderland taxpayers only pay around $7.2 million? Clarity.
The district expects to receive state aid reimbursement of 67% for the principal and interest paid on borrowed funds over the 15-year life of the borrowing. The net cost to taxpayers is estimated to total approximately $11.4 million.
Is interest included in the $21.8 million? Clarity.
The $21.8 million figure is the total cost of construction and construction-related services (i.e. architect, construction management, legal, etc.). It does not include interest on borrowed funds.
Can you explain that the tax increase on average is $5 a month? It’s the responsibility of the community to support public schools. That’s the whole point of PUBLIC education.
The estimated tax increase of $5 per month is based on the total cost of the borrowing for the project over 15 years, minus state aid reimbursement, for a home assessed at the median value of $299,000 in the Town of Guilderland.
How long will it take for the district to complete?
Should the capital improvement project proposal be approved by voters, project design development will begin, which typically takes approximately six months. The project designs will then need to be reviewed and approved by the New York State Department of Education. Once NYSED approval is obtained, the project would go out for bid; contracts would be awarded and construction would begin in fall 2022. Some aspects of the project could begin construction in summer 2022. Anticipated completion of the project would be summer 2023.