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Mid Hudson TimesBig change for Newburgh schools

Big change for Newburgh schools

The Newburgh Enlarged City School District plans sweeping infrastructure improvements through a proposed capital bond project. Bond funding would pay for major renovations to existing schools, a new pre-kindergarten center and a new building on the Newburgh Free Academy Main campus.

“It’s time to plant our flag,” said Newburgh Superintendent of Schools Roberto Padilla, speaking at a Board of Education meeting last Thursday.

“As other school districts enhance and advance into the future, Newburgh has to do the same… We can put band aids on our facilities or we can be courageous. We can be visionaries and give Newburgh a chance to soar.”

The current plan outlines a redesign for the NFA Main campus: a new high-school building, complete with a cafeteria, gym, auditorium, career and technical education center, and athletic facility with an indoor, track and field space. The plan also calls for renovations at the existing NFA Main campus building.
An earlier version of the plan proposed the consolidation of NFA Main and North schools and moving Horizons-on-the-Hudson students to a new school on district-owned property on Chestnut Street. That suggestion came up against staunch opposition from residents and board members.

“It seems Gidney Avenue is just as small as Horizons,” said Courtney Allen, challenging the idea that the Horizons building had outlived its purpose. “I support the idea that Horizons needs to be upgraded,” said school board member Phil Howard, noting many students walk to the school. “(If) they have to go all the way up to Chestnut Street, that’s not going work.”

Board member Darren Stridiron agreed, saying the move would force parents to have to “taxi” their kids to and from the school. “That’s not fair,” he said.

The Board of Education soon voted no to the closing of Horizons-on-the-Hudson and no to merging NFA Main and North campuses.

Under the current plan, a new pre-K center would be constructed on Meadow Hill School property. The center could accommodate 350 pre-K students, with a design that includes outdoor learning spaces. Pre-K classes at Balmville, GAMS, Horizons and Gardnertown schools would all be moved to the new pre-K center.

The bond amount for the project is not yet determined. “Currently, our debt limit is a little over $188 million,” said district Assistant Superintendent of Finance Greg Kern. To exceed that limit would require super-majority approval by district voters and approval from the New York State Comptroller’s Office, he said.

“Debt is not the only thing we’re going to use to finance the project,” said Kern, pointing to state aid, grants and $10 million in capital reserve.

And, the district is eligible for a hefty amount of state aid, said Kern. “If the whole project was aidable, we’d get 88.4 cents back on every dollar that we spend,” he said. “We’re going to maximize state aid.”

“How does the bond proposal affect the taxpayers?” Stridiron asked. “Depending on maximization of state aid coming through, there should be minimal impact on taxpayers,” replied Kern.

Project costs will be made public by the time the Board of Education votes on the project, said Kern. Residents will also have plenty of opportunity to weigh in before the project can be approved by the board, Padilla said. “Nothing is set in stone,” he said.

Under the current plan, several other schools would also undergo major renovations: Heritage Middle School would get a new auditorium, fitness center, and new tech and music classrooms; Temple Hill would see an expansion of its cafeteria, a new play area and an outdoor learning space.

“We’ve gone through great lengths in the designs… to integrate nature into the classrooms in these buildings,” said Chris Colby, lead project architect with Clark Patterson Lee. “It impacts how well the students learn.”

Meadow Hill, New Windsor, Vails Gate, Balmville Elementary, Fostertown, GAMS and Gardnertown would also undergo renovations and new additions under the plan.

A formal public review period will take place in the fall. The Board of Education is scheduled to adopt a plan in January. A public vote would take place sometime next year, if approved by the board.

The bond project will be revisited at the school board’s meeting on Tuesday, July 25.



  • Walt:

    “…minimal impact on taxpayers,”. The district already spends $21K per student and its overall grad scores are relatively poor. Those are expensive ‘band-aids’. Why isn’t the project being sold on decreased budgets wrought by the purported efficiencies of ‘active learning, collaboration and integrated technologies’? Will not the consolidation of pre-K result in the majority of parents having to “taxi” THEIR children? Will the new outdoor spaces and athletic facilities be available to community at large after hours, or is the whole school/muni partnership just talk? We’re taxed on vacant buildings yet the adjacent school playgrounds are off limits? Most importantly, how does the project integrate with the school’s ‘equitable over equality’ mantra, or will a redistribution of the new assets be announced after the fact? The district can’t substitute brick and mortar for a deterioration of the family structure.

  • Michael J. Hernandez:

    “The Old Balmville School ~ 1897 is the Peoples School” which in fact is a “Historical Site”; the main rail of the true meaning of the words: “Of the People, By the People, and For the People”, who in fact are the rightful owners that happen to be the “Tax-payers”, through its definition. The Newburgh Board of Education is the “Custodian”, not solely the Owner, who happens to be the “Gate Keeper” that holds the Keys in its possession; “Authority, Accountability, Responsibility” ~ Charged w/ maintaining the upkeep of this Facility & Grounds IAW the N.Y. Dept. of State Maintenance & Fire Codes @ all times; a Fact that’s not Negotiable and then some!!!
    It must never ever be jeopardized through compromise for compensation with regards to a “Fictional time-table completion”! I would strongly urge each and everyone, to take the opportunity by making the time, to contact the elected Political Leaders whose Districts include Newburgh and the Town of Newburgh areas.
    Let all of these Public Officials know that “We the People” have a very important and vital message for them, and that is: “LET’S ENERGIZE/ SUPERFUND/ TRANSFORM” The OLD BALMVILLE SCHOOL~1897″. Semper Fi. End of text. Hernandez USMC sends.

    • Michael J. Hernandez:

      •From: MSgt. Michael J. Hernandez USMC (Ret.)
      To: All Concerned (AlCon)
      Subject: “Old Balmville School~1897”

      “Structural Engineers Report”, conducted by “Ryan-Biggs Associates, P.C.” of Troy, N.Y., who apparently was sub-contracted by “Collins & Scoville Architects, P.C” of Newburgh, N.Y.

      The Inspection that was performed on the “Old Balmville School ~ 1897”, occurred on 30 Oct. 2007, under RYAN-BIGGS Project # 9288 via the COLLINS & SCOVILLE Demolition/ Report # 07PR05842.

      CONCLUSIONS: (a). “Overall, the building structure generally appears to be in sound and stable condition”!!!

      (b). “Based upon of the observation(s) of the roof framing, the structure shows no obvious signs of structural distress or imminent failure of the roof framing”!!!

      (c). “It is structurally feasible to renovate the building for future use”!!!
      Semper Fi. End of text. Hernandez USMC sends.


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