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Tax-free renovation project set for Jan. 10 vote

How do I get more information?
Take a tour of 50 North Lark Street
Saturday, Dec. 10, 10-11:30 a.m.
Attend a community forum
Wednesday, Dec. 7, 6-7:30 p.m., Albany Public Library, 161 Washington Ave.
Wednesday, Dec. 14, 5-6 p.m., Schuyler Achievement Academy, 676 Clinton Ave.
Monday, Dec. 19, 7-8 p.m., Stephen and Harriet Myers Middle School, 100 Elbel Court
ALBANY, N.Y. (Oct. 21, 2016) -- Faced with growing enrollment and urgent space needs for the 2017-18 school year, the City School District of Albany Board of Education has approved a $6.5 million facilities referendum that would convert an existing district building to a middle school. If approved by voters, the work would have no impact on taxes.

 

The vote on renovations to the building at 50 North Lark St., will be held Tuesday, Jan. 10. Also on Jan. 10, voters will decide on the district's proposal to buy the school at 395 Elk St., currently home to West Hill Middle School and the proposed future home of the district's Alternative Learning Center. That proposed $4.1 million purchase of 395 Elk also would have no impact on taxes. The district would be getting an almost-new school built for more than $15 million six years ago, and also would be saving about $169,000 in lease payments to reduce the proposed overall tax-free investment in 395 Elk.

 

The middle school at 50 North Lark would be enrolled on an interim basis for 3-5 years while the district plans for its long-term, permanent middle-school facilities needs and enrollment patterns. The district’s Grade Configuration Steering Committee is expected to make recommendations to the board for those plans in the spring of next year.

 

The 50 North Lark renovations would be paid for with about $1.3 million from the district’s Capital Reserve Fund and about $5.2 million in state aid. The building currently is home to the district’s Alternative Learning Center. The four ALC programs would be relocated for 2017-18 to make way for the middle school.

 

Interim enrollment plan

The board has approved the following interim enrollment plan for 50 North Lark. This enrollment pattern would begin in 2017-18 and be in place 3-5 years:

  • Arbor Hill Elementary School – current grades 5-6

    • Arbor Hill Elementary will serve students through fifth grade only beginning in 2017-18.

  • North Albany Academy – current grades 5-7

    • North Albany will serve students through fifth grade only beginning in 2017-18.

  • Schuyler Achievement Academy – current grade 5

  • Sheridan Preparatory Academy – current grade 5

  • West Hill Middle School – current grade 7

    • West Hill no longer will serve as a district middle school beginning in 2017-18.

 

The board reviewed that plan at its Oct. 6 meeting before approving it at the Oct. 20 meeting. You also can download a list of Frequently Asked Questions (updated Dec. 2) with more information about the 50 North Lark and 395 Elk proposals.

 

Also at the Oct. 20 meeting, the board voted to change the grade configuration of Pine Hills Elementary School to serve students only through fifth grade beginning in 2017-18. Students from Pine Hills Elementary now will attend Stephen and Harriet Myers Middle School for grades 6-8. Pine Hills Elementary currently serves students from prekindergarten through grade 6, but the school is over capacity due to significant enrollment growth in recent years.

 

During the Oct. 6 meeting, Interim Superintendent Kimberly Young Wilkins, Ed.D., noted several advantages to the 50 North Lark interim enrollment pattern for students and families:

  • The Grade Configuration Steering Committee recommended earlier this year and the board agreed that the north side of the city will be the location of a permanent new middle school in the future.

  • A middle school at 50 North Lark will allow families from the north side of the city to have accessibility to an equitable middle school in their community, with a reduction of busing.

    • The north side has been without a full district middle school since the former Philip Livingston Magnet Academy closed in 2009.

    • Students and families attending the district’s two existing permanent middle schools for grades 6-8 have to travel to William S. Hackett Middle School on Delaware Avenue or Stephen and Harriet Myers Middle School on Whitehall Road.

  • The interim enrollment plan would have the least disruption on middle-level enrollment while the Grade Configuration Steering Committee and, ultimately, the board plan for the district’s long-term enrollment pattern.

 

The middle school at 50 North Lark would open with about 340 students for 2017-18 and would grow to near 600 students for the 2019-20 school year.

 

Benefits for students and families

Dr. Wilkins stressed that district is prepared to invest in programs and supports for all students at 50 North Lark that are equitable to those provided at Hackett and Myers. That planning would include:

  • Structure of the building and accessibility to middle-level programming

    • The school day for sixth-graders at Arbor Hill Elementary School and for students in grades 6-8 at North Albany Academy is currently 30 minutes shorter than it is for students at Hackett, Myers and West Hill. That equates to more than two weeks less of school every year.

    • West Hill Middle School – the former Brighter Choice charter middle schools, which closed in 2015 – does not meet state facilities requirements for public schools. The district has leased the building the last two school years to accommodate the enrollment increase that has been caused in part by the failure of five of the city’s seven charter middle schools. The district’s lease at West Hill expires at the end of June 2017.

  • Appropriate staffing – Principal, two assistant principals, home school coordinator, guidance counselors, social workers, psychologist, clerical staff, monitors, head of security, school resource officer, full-service model

  • Equitable textbooks, equipment and library materials

  • Quality afterschool programming and extended day

  • Accessibility to all modified sports (grades 7-8)

  • Computer accessibility for students and Smart Boards in all classrooms

 

Planning to meet future needs

The district has been planning for 18 months to meet its middle-school enrollment needs on a temporary basis beginning in 2017-18, and on a permanent basis in the next 3-5 years. Click here to read more about the Grade Configuration Steering Committee’s ongoing planning and its schedule for the coming months.

 

The district’s overall enrollment has grown by nearly 1,500 students over the last eight years, with the largest growth at the elementary level. That already is causing enrollment pressure at the elementary and middle schools. The need for additional middle-school space will become urgent beginning in 2017-18.

 

Enrollment in the district’s existing middle schools is up by more than 26 percent since 2008-09, and the district anticipates as many as 425 more students in grades 6-8 by the start of the 2025-26 school year.

 

And while the proposed renovations for 50 North Lark are for a middle school that will be enrolled on an interim basis for the next 3-5 years, the renovated building is central to the district’s long-term facilities planning.

 

As examples, 50 North Lark could continue as a permanent middle school with a revised feeder pattern, as the permanent home for alternative education or as the home for a newcomer program that would serve the city’s rapidly growing refugee and English as a New Language (ENL) population.

 

The mission of the City School District of Albany is to educate and prepare all students for college and career, citizenship and life, in partnership with our diverse community. The district serves more than 9,600 students in 17 elementary, middle and high schools. In addition to neighborhood schools, the district includes several magnet schools and programs, as well as other innovative academic opportunities for students, including four themed academies at Albany High School.

         
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