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Wallkill Valley TimesValley Central sees the light

Valley Central sees the light

Valley Central School District is committed to getting a traffic light installed along Route 17K in front of the Middle School/High School complex, and the Board of Education unanimously approved an architectural and engineering services proposal at its meeting on Jan. 8. The move will allow the CSArch architectural firm and the Chazen engineering company to formulate plans in anticipation of a potential capital public referendum on the traffic light project. The firms will provide traffic engineering, site design, surveying and a geotechnical investigation, and the total cost of the pre-referendum services is approximately $140,330.

CSArch previously conducted the district’s five-year building condition survey and the company specializes in traffic patterns and parking lot reconfigurations. Under the possible referendum, the district would install the traffic light, make improvements to the traffic circulation in the parking lot and invest in new parking lot lighting with the goal of improving student safety at the site. The New York State Department of Transportation has already approved the traffic light, but the state has not provided funding for its installation. The district is tentatively planning to hold the referendum in conjunction with its school budget vote on May 15. The capital project proposal would need Board of Education approval before the taxpayers rendered their verdict on the referendum.

In order for the district to get state aid for its proposal, it must be tied into instruction, so a small project for the high school and middle school could be weaved into the project. Under the current plan, new auditorium lighting for the school could be funded by the referendum. Trustee Brad Conklin suggested during last Monday’s board meeting that the district should also look into fixing traffic problems at Montgomery Elementary, a proposal that could be added to the referendum as well.

The district is adamant about getting a traffic light installed outside the school campus, as students currently cross 17K to get to the Dollar General shop across the street without the benefit of a red light. The engineering companies will also work on a solution to the congestion that plagues the high school parking lot each morning. “They’ve already started some of the work, and within six to eight weeks we should have something back,” Valley Central Superintendent John Xanthis said. “Now that we’re going to throw in Montgomery, that was a great idea because it will get another pool of people to support it. It might take a little longer, but we’ll throw that out and we’ll have a presentation some night to show what the design looks like. We’ll see what they come up with and what the costs are associated with it. Then we’ll have to pull it into a project, like our lights haven’t been replaced since 1972. They’re being held together with glue and gum. So that might be something we want to do, and maybe there are some other things that are health and safety related that we could throw in there also. A few extra things that have some urgency to them that we could include. I think when the public hears what we’re trying to do, and when they see it, I think people will support it. Because it is a nightmare out there in the morning.”

Valley Central has also launched a letter-writing campaign to local politicians asking for assistance with the traffic light, and Xanthis noted during the board session that Assemblyman Brian Miller responded to their concerns and will come speak to the board about the issue in February.

During last Monday’s board meeting, district Director of Technology Christopher Mohr updated the council on the district’s Chromebook program, which started in the middle school in October and has seen 1,200 computers distributed to 7th- and 8th-grade students. The pupils take home the devices on a daily basis, and any repairs needed on the computers are handled in-house by the district’s technicians.

The initiative was funded as part of last year’s school budget, and the district hopes to eventually expand the program to the high school. “The teachers, the kids and the families are thrilled,” Xanthis said of the program’s rollout. “The middle school is a supportive building where they’re always open to do some creative things with kids. The kids have great enthusiasm at that level, and this has been something that has been very well-received.”

By Ted Remsnyder

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