JPS Board Expedites Washington Roof Replacement

A previously planned reconstruction project that was approved by district voters to replace a roof at Washington Middle School is being expedited after water leaks forced students to be displaced.

“We can start right away,” said Bret Apthorpe, Jamestown Public Schools superintendent, after the school board approved construction bids.

The JPS Board of Education was updated on Washington, the Success Academy and the Maisto et al v. New York State case, or the Small Cities lawsuit, during its meeting Tuesday.

Regarding Washington, the board approved a resolution to award bids to EE Austin for $2,488,400, AW Farrell for $1,771,000, MKS Plumbing for $133,000, Rabe Environmental Systems for $1,604,940, U & S Services for $498,520 and Ahlstrom Shaeffer for $803,295. The original proposal for the Washington Middle School Reconstruction project was approved under a larger referendum of $68,000,000 in 2011.

Many school district construction projects are carried out over multiple phases and Washington’s reconstruction was a part of a later phase scheduled to begin in June. However, after the roof above the A-wing failed in February, students in that section were displaced elsewhere. Many of the students were relocated to other areas in Washington while others are being transported to Jefferson Middle School.

With the students removed from the impacted area, the project can begin early. The district was already considering methods to temporarily fix the roof of the A-wing, but has now elected to simply begin the already approved reconstruction project.

“We may be able to actually be much more efficient with the construction project,” Apthorpe said of going ahead with the project instead of utilizing a temporary fix.

Apthorpe also updated the board on the current status of the Maisto case. The JPS board voted five to two at the Feb. 26 meeting to continue to fund and support the New York State Association of Small City School Districts. Apthorpe was in Albany earlier Tuesday meeting with elected officials and members of the Small City organization.

The case stems from a previous court ruling brought forth by the Campaign for Fiscal Equity in 2003. The decision helped create the Foundation Aid Formula which promised $5.5 billion in additional state aid to school districts across New York state in 2007. During the 2009-10 school year, the state halted Foundation Aid. In 2010-11, the state created Gap Elimination Adjustment in attempts to balance the state budget and effectively cut state school aid. The involved school districts have been in a lengthy legal battle regarding the funding of foundation aid to provide a sound basic education since.

Apthorpe said he was “pleasantly surprised” when state Sen. Shelley Mayer discussed the Maisto case in detail. With a recent political shift in the Senate and former state Sen. Cathy Young leaving her position, Apthorpe was concerned about the region’s representation in state government. But after spending all day in Albany and meeting with Mayer, Apthorpe said, “it was a good day.”

Additionally during the meeting, the board received an update from Tina Sandstrom, JPS chief director of schools, regarding the impending Success Academy housed in the former Rogers building. Sandstrom said the district has begun its first round of internal interviews for staff positions at the repurposed building.

The district also recently announced that Mike McElrath, current Jamestown High School principal, will be beginning as principal at the Success Academy next fall.

Inside the Success Academy, agencies like social services, mental health providers, counselors, job training, mentors and clergy would possibly be involved in offering help to students who are falling behind in school due to traumatic events. The programs would be offered to students in grades five through 12 as an additional pathway to address chronic absenteeism in the district.

Apthorpe told the board, the academy will likely reduce absenteeism and in the long-run impact the district’s drop out rate.

Another aspect of the Success Academy is the ability to offer additional career and technical education (CTE) courses as well as some pre-kindergarten classes.

The superintendent said the district hopes it will have all staffing positions “identified by the end of the month or the first of April.” Those hired will undergo professional development training through Boston College. Also, the district is working on its admissions procedure as to identifying which students will attend the Success Academy.

In other news, the board approved the Jamestown High School Music Department’s overnight trip from Dec. 27, 2019 to Jan. 2, 2020 to Disney World where the Marching Band and A Cappella Choir will perform. The trip will be partially funded by proceeds raised from the recently announced Reg Lenna Center for the Arts concert put on by the music department that will see the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra perform “The Music of Queen: A Rock Symphony.” The concert is assisted by a $50,000 Jamestown Local Development Corporation’s Fund for Downtown Programming Grant.