Speaking of the project, which has been dubbed "K-12 Vision 2020," Suttmeier explained that its goal was "improving educational quality and experiences on our campuses," noting that the graduation rate had increased in the 2014-2015 school year from 59 to 77 percent. She asserted that it was a "sound financial decision to do a capital project now" and spoke of "right sizing" the district. She then explained the proposed grade-level reorganization.
- In the school year 2016-2017, Grade 6 will move from Montgomery C. Smith to the Junior High School--into space already available.
- In the school year 2017-2018, Grade 2 will move from John L. Edwards to Montgomery C. Smith.
- In the school year 2019-2020, PreK, Kindergarten, and Grade 1 will move to a new 18,000 square foot addition to be built on the south side of Montgomery C. Smith.
Speaking of the acquisition of adjacent City-owned land for tha addition at Montgomery C. Smith, Suttmeier explained, "We don't need the property, but acquiring it would enhance the project."
When the discussion turned to the erosion on that City-owned land caused by the storm water system at the school, Suttmeier said, "We can't fix what is on City-owned property, but if we can acquire it, we could." At which point Alderman John Friedman (Third Ward) asked, "Would the district commit to remediating it if they acquired it?" The answer seemed to be yes.
Alderman Henry Haddad (Third Ward) wanted to know what the proposed addition would look like. John Sharkey, from Rhinebeck Architecture, explained that the building had not been designed yet and drawings that "gave an idea of the building's footprint" were "as far as we've gotten." He expressed his admiration for the original school building, constructed in 1937 as a WPA project, and noted that if the school district could get the land from the City of Hudson, he would like to "push the addition back and over" so that it would have a lower profile and less impact on the historic school building.
Jonathan Lerner, chair of the Conservation Advisory Council, brought the conversation back to the erosion caused by storm water runoff from school district property onto City property. He maintained that the erosion was "the result of negligence of the part of HCSD, and the district has an obligation to remediate it." Suttmeier reiterated that if the parcel acquired included the erosion, HCSD could fix it.
Alderman Rick Rector (First Ward) wanted to know what the academic benefit of spending $20 million was. In answer, Suttmeier spoke reducing transitions (moving from one school to another), which have been shown to have a negative effect of academic performance, aligning the curriculum (from grade level to grade level), and professional development.
Responding to Rector's concerns, Friedman said he shared a concern for academics but went on to say, "A lot of students that go to that school are not interested in the academic route." He continued, "The condition of the school is a reflection of how the community feels about the school, and the track is a reflection of that." Although Hudson High School has a successful track team, track meets cannot be held at Hudson High because there is a cinder track which is "not safe for our students." The proposed capital project includes a new athletic field behind the high school with a 400-meter track, a field for soccer and football, and accommodation for pole vault, shot put, and discus.
Hudson resident Peter Frank inquired about the sale of John L. Edwards, asking if the City and the community would have any input into its repurposing and suggesting that it might be used for affordable housing. He was told that the sale of the school building, which would not happen until the 2019-2020 school year, would be subject to referendum.
Before the meeting adjourned, former mayor and now Fifth Ward supervisor Rick Scalera thanked Friedman for his comments, called the upcoming referendum a well-kept secret, said the capital project was an opportunity that would not come again, and urged the aldermen to support the referendum and get their constituents to vote.
The meeting was videotaped and will be aired on Mid-Hudson Cable Channel 11 at 7 p.m. on Friday.
COPYRIGHT 2016 CAROLE OSTERINK