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Eye On The Future

District Proposes $86M Capital Project For Schools

Jamestown High School

Jamestown High School could be getting a major facelift in the coming years.

District voters are likely to have a referendum on the May 18 school budget ballot for an $86,200,000 million capital project that involves the high school, Persell Middle School, Ring Elementary School, Fletcher Elementary School, the district bus garage, Raymond Fashano Tech Academy and districtwide information technology upgrades.

“The goal is to make sure our students are warm, safe and dry so that they can learn and we can provide the best program for them as possible,” said Dr. Kevin Whitaker, Jamestown Public Schools superintendent.

While specifics are still being determined, preliminary documents reviewed by the Board of Education on Tuesday have more than half ($44,736,000) of the overall proposed project being spent at JHS. Board members have between now and the end of March to make a final decision on the scope of the project.

The list of potential improvements is preliminary and subject to change through late March when the Board of Education has to approve a final project for voters to approve. Improvements at Jamestown High School could include an upgrade to the school auditorium, creation of a secure vestibule at the main entrance, upgrades to the old gym, cafeteria and kitchen renovations and work on the school’s pool, among others. The building would also get a new roof and new windows.

“As everyone knows the high school has some older construction, some smaller rooms,” Whitaker said. “It’s hampered our ability to bring students back because of the 6-foot requirements. We have small spaces. We need to modernize those instructional spaces, make our rooms larger. We need to address our cafeteria and some internal things.”

Persell Middle School would also get a new roof and windows as well as auditorium improvements, improvements to the gym and locker rooms, work in two music rooms and restroom improvements. There would also be a slew of improvements to the building’s mechanical systems. Fletcher Elementary would see masonry work, a new roof, work to deal with a water issue in the school cafeteria, mechanical and plumbing work. Ring Elementary would get new exterior doors, masonry work, windows, building interior work including work to the school auditorium, and a host of mechanical improvements.

“It’s important that we think long term and it’s important that we address things so that we don’t have to worry about them for as long as possible,” Whitaker said. “Also, it’s important that we maintain those things over the course of time so that they last their full life span.”

There is projected to be no increase in school taxes for the project if it is approved by voters. District officials expect 98% of the $86 million cost to be paid with state building aid, leaving about $1.7 million left to be paid locally.

The district has about $900,000 in EXCEL aid left from a 2006 state aid disbursement to use toward the project and proposes using $800,000 from the district’s Capital Reserve Fund for the rest of the local funding.

“We have saved enough to pay off the difference,” Whitaker said. “So there will be no need to have a tax impact as a result.”

Paul Abbott, board president, said using the Capital Reserve Fund is appropriate because the building project should decrease the likelihood the district would need the Capital Reserve Fund to pay for sudden building repairs.

“I just think when people hear you’re going into a reserve fund, their natural question, and I know I do this, is what happens in the event of a rainy day — a heating system goes, a roof needs to be replaced. Where are we going to find that money? Are you going to come knocking on taxpayers’ doors then? I think it’s important to get out there the idea this project diminishes those possibilities.”

A final decision by the board is needed before March 30 so that required legal notices can be finalized to get the project on the May 18 school budget and board election ballot. A 60% supermajority is needed for the project to be approved.

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