The Newburgh Enlarged City School District hosted the first of three community forums this month to discuss a proposed project to rebuild and renovate schools throughout the entire district.
With the slogan “Becoming Future Ready Now,” the project will involve massive upgrades to school buildings and facilities on each school district property. If the project is approved by the Board of Education, voters will decide on a bond to pay for the plan sometime next year.
“This is not just about next year, this is about ten, fifteen years down the road, and constructing facilities that our students need to be competitive in the global market,” said district Superintendent of Schools Roberto Padilla at the Board of Education Auditorium last week.
Some of the larger projects being proposed include the construction of a new school at New Free Academy Main Campus and a pre-kindergarten center next to Meadow Hill School. “Right now, we have pre-Ks spread out in several buildings,” Padilla said.
Under the plan, the pre-K center would have approximately 28 classrooms, with separate administrative spaces, a cafeteria and an outdoor learning space. The “open-concept” design would include large spaces with natural views, said Chris Colby, lead project architect with Clark Patterson Lee.
“We’re trying to incorporate nature into the building as much as possible,” Colby said. The pre-K students would be bused to the new facility from around the district, Padilla said.
Horizons-on-the-Hudson School would get a new addition to house a new cafeteria, classrooms and offices. The design calls for extensive renovations to the existing space and a new parking structure across the street on City of Newburgh property. “We’re going to look at acquiring it,” said Padilla, referring to three, small parcels on Montgomery Street.
Extensive changes are planned for Newburgh Free Academy Main Campus: construction would include a new 150,000-square-foot high school, an outdoor amphitheater and new career and technical center with a focus on culinary arts.
Some meeting attendees expressed concern over new-facility maintenance costs and building designs calling for use of glass in school interiors. Mark Levinstein said glass could pose a hazard during a lock-out or lock-down emergency. “I would be concerned,” Levinstein said.
The bond to pay for the project is expected to cost millions of dollars. The bond – essentially a long-term loan – would be repaid by the school district over time.
So far, the district has not provided an exact dollar amount for the project because designs have not been finalized, said Padilla. The project is still in the proposal phase, the superintendent said. “We want to hear from multiple stakeholders,” Padilla said, before the Board of Education comes to a resolution for the project. “Nothing is set in stone.”
The school district will host two more public forums on the capital bond project in August. For more information, visit the Newburgh school district website at Newburghschools.org.
By SHANTAL RILEY