January 25, 2016
You also can
these FAQs in .pdf format.
If you have additional questions that are not answered in the Q&A
below, please e-mail them to Director of Communications Ron Lesko at
Q: Where would the school be located?
Albany High School would remain at the same location, 700 Washington
Q: Is the district planning a completely new facility, a renovation of
the current facility or a combination of the two?
As with the proposal that voters defeated by 92 votes in November (less
than 1 percent of the nearly 13,000 votes cast), the scaled-back
proposal voters will consider Feb. 9 calls for a combination of
renovations and new construction. New construction would include a
second three-story academic building in the first phase, a new classroom
building for art, music and foreign language classrooms, and enclosure
of the school’s open courtyard later in the project. Enclosing the
courtyard would provide additional space inside the school and address
safety and security concerns by removing numerous entrances to the
building. The new construction would expand the school by about 50
percent, primarily to address 21st-century learning needs,
safety and projected enrollment growth; the district anticipates Albany
High’s student population will grow from about 2,500 today to 3,000 or
more in future years.
Renovations would include a complete makeover for the inside of the
current three-story academic wing. That would include the addition of
career and technical education (CTE) space on the first floor to allow
those programs to move onto the main campus from the Abrookin Career and
Technical Center three blocks away. The renovation of the second and
third floors of the current academic building would create true small
learning communities (SLCs) and more flexible learning spaces in that
section of the building. Renovations also would include complete
replacement of the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system, a
new roof that the district would hope to complete in time for the
2016-17 school year, updates and a new 200-seat balcony in the current
auditorium, and the addition of new space for physical-education
classes, including jogging lanes in the main gym.
In total, the project would expand Albany High from its current 378,000
square feet (which includes the 60,750-square-foot Abrookin) to
approximately 530,000 square feet on one campus.
Q: How much will it cost?
The total cost of the proposal that voters will consider Feb. 9 will be
$179.9 million. That is $16.1 million less than the November proposal.
The district has opted to extend the project over seven years to
maximize state aid and minimize the annual tax impact on homeowners.
If the scaled-back proposal is approved Feb. 9,
Albany taxpayers would pay $62.7 million (35 percent of the total cost).
State aid would cover the rest – $117.2 million (65 percent).
The impact on homeowners also would be significantly less than in the
Nov. 3 proposal.
$1.58/month or 5 cents/day
$1.17/month or 4 cents/day
$2.33/month or 8 cents/day
$1.83/month or 6 cents/day
$3.00/month or 10 cents/day
$2.50/month or 8 cents/day
For non-homestead properties, the proposed tax increase ranges from
$46-$77 for assessments of $150,000-$250,000.
That also represents
a reduction of more than half compared to the November proposal.
Q: Why is the vote
scheduled in February?
There are several reasons for the rebuild vote to be in February instead
of the spring or next November. The first is to ensure the roof can be replaced
over the summer. Last fall, leaks in the roof had a dramatic impact on
student learning and safety. At one point three of the six stair towers
in the academic building had to be closed when heavy rain caused
flooding. To put it simply, the roofs need to be replaced and it can no
longer wait. February was the latest that a vote could be scheduled to
ensure the roof could be replaced over the summer if the referendum is
Potential impact on the construction schedule is another important
reason the Board of Education planned the vote for February. There are
many parts of the construction that can only be done during the summer
when staff and students are not in the building. Waiting until the
November would push the project to a timeline that would make it
difficult or impossible to fully utilize the summers in the projected
timeline. That could extend the project further. This would increase
Finally, on a project this size, escalation is an important factor. The
escalation estimate is up to $1 million a year. A vote in the spring would have
added as much as $250,000 to the cost of the project, and a vote in
November would add up to $1 million because we would lose a full
construction season at that point. It made the most sense fiscally and
for our students to look to a February date.
We are putting
our students' needs first.
Q: The total cost of
the new proposal is about 8 percent less than the original proposal. How
was the district able to lower the proposed tax increase by more than
Following the narrow defeat of the original proposal in November, the
district and Board of Education endeavored to take into account concerns
that residents had expressed before and after the vote. Most of the work
that has been eliminated or cut back for the new proposal would have
come with very low ratios of state aid – meaning that local taxpayers
would have shouldered a higher percentage of the cost for those parts of
To reduce the overall cost and potential tax impact of the proposal, the
district eliminated a planned new 1,400-seat auditorium and an expansion
of the current gym. The new proposal would maintain and renovate the
current auditorium and add a 200-seat balcony to bring the total
capacity to about 850. The new scaled-back proposal also includes the
Three of five distance-learning classrooms have been eliminated (two
maintained).$2 million in technology expenses. The district would
redirect those funds from its district-wide Smart Schools Bond Act
allocation to the new high school.$1.5 million in furniture and
equipment expenses.Less-expensive flooring materials in hallways.An
artificial-turf athletic practice field has been eliminated. This
existing practice field in the rear of Albany High would remain grass.
While the district and board believed that these elements included in
the November proposal would have provided valuable benefits for
students, staff and the community for decades to come, we also
recognized the community voice in the November “no” vote. The reductions
were aimed at addressing concerns about the fiscal impact while also
striving to maintain most of the critical educational, programmatic and
safety benefits of the original plan.
Q: Why is this project necessary for Albany High School?
Doing nothing is not an option for Albany High School any longer.
Designed in the 1960s and built in the 1970s, the school was poorly
designed and poorly constructed. It no longer can meet teaching and
learning needs, it is falling apart in many areas and, like many public
facilities across the state and nation, it is not safe in today’s world.
It is time for a major investment in our city’s public high school to
benefit our students and community. There are several primary reasons
The cost of these upgrades and improvements alone would be about $55.7
million, and would not address any of the building’s educational, safety
or space needs.
The cost of this addition currently is estimated at about $45.6 million,
and would not address any deficiencies in any other parts of the current
school or the remote location of the Abrookin Career and Technical
Albany High is difficult to secure in its current configuration.
In this day and age, with shootings and other violent events
occurring in schools and other public facilities nationwide, all
organizations justifiably are concerned about and re-examining
safety and security measures. Albany High School was built in an
era when these concerns were not paramount. The school therefore
has numerous deficiencies that make safety and security a daily
The open courtyard has 11 doors -- significantly more entrances and
exits than the building needs or the staff can safely monitor at the
heart of the campus.
These entrances are not only difficult to monitor and secure
with staff and technology during the school day and on nights,
weekends and holidays, but the aging nature of the building also
makes some doors insecure. Enclosing the courtyard in a bright
atrium space would not only enhance the school environment and
add additional learning space throughout the school, it also
would allow for reduction to two entrances and exits at the
heart of the campus – reducing opportunities for an intruder to
enter the building.
Hallways in large sections of Albany High’s academic building are
like a maze.
These short, winding hallways create numerous areas that are
difficult and costly for the school to manage and control with
staff and technology. Students interested in skipping classes
often take advantage of these design flaws to avoid hall
monitors and other staff. A complete renovation of the current
academic building and the construction of a second academic
building would allow for better sightlines, fewer areas for
students to “hide” when they should be in class and fewer staff
necessary to monitor the hallways and ensure a safe, secure
learning environment for all students.
The location of Abrookin three blocks away creates traffic and other
safety concerns for students.
Along with the primary academic reasons for moving the career
and technical education programs into the main high school
building, there also are important safety considerations for
this part of the proposal. The fact that 100-200 students cross
busy four-lane Washington Avenue every period during the school
day for the three-block walk to the Abrookin Career and
Technical Center creates dangerous situations on a daily basis
for students and motorists alike. Students have been hit
crossing Washington Avenue during the school day in recent
years. The mornings are especially dangerous with work commuters
speeding east on Washington Avenue at the same time that
students are being dropped off or walking to school. Students
having to walk through a city neighborhood to get to class at
Abrookin also creates additional safety concerns. Locating all
of Albany High’s CTE programs in the main building for the first
time would significantly cut down on the safety risks for our
will be completed in each of the four construction phases?
voters approve the proposal Feb. 9, construction would begin in the
spring of 2018. The main project then would be completed in four phases
over seven years, with an additional roofing project undertaken
immediately to address the condition of the existing roof and leaks that
are being experienced.
Reroofing Phase – The district
would strive to replace the existing roof before the start of the
2016-17 school year.
I – The first phase primarily
would consist of the addition of a new academic building at the rear
of the school, in what is now the Athletics parking lot.
new wing would include:
general instruction classrooms: ELA, math, social studies, Academic
Intervention Services (AIS), English as a New Language (ENL), career
group breakout spaces (enclosed and non-enclosed)
special education classrooms
special education resource rooms
distance learning lab classrooms
learning community administration suites
II – The major focus of this phase
would be the enclosure of the courtyard, the addition of a new
library/media center and computer classroom, and renovations to the
third floor of the existing classroom building.
This phase would include:
(22) renovated or new general instruction
classrooms: ELA, math, social studies, AIS, ENL, career
(5) new group breakout spaces (enclosed and
(10) new science classrooms
(2) renovated special education classrooms
(2) renovated special education resource rooms
(1) new distance learning lab classrooms
(1) small learning community administration
(3) new CTE spaces
New Library/Media Center
Enclosure of courtyard
III – This work would include
renovation of the existing auditorium and a 200-seat balcony
addition, a new main entry along Washington Avenue, and the addition
of a new music and art classroom wing also along Washington Avenue.
Additionally, renovations to the existing main gym, supporting gym
spaces and the addition of two new gym stations would be completed
during this phase.
This phase would
New secure entries
Renovated auditorium with addition of 200-seat
(6) new art classrooms
(5) new music classrooms
(6) foreign language classrooms
(3) new physical education stations
(6) renovated physical education stations
New main office and public welcome space
New student support space
New health suite
IV – The focus of this
work would be to create two true smaller learning communities (SLCs)
on the second and third floors with flexible learning spaces
designed to meet student needs in the 21st century, and
to create the new career and technical education (CTE) learning
space on the first floor. This would allow all of the programs
currently located at the Abrookin Career and Technical Center three
blocks away to move onto the main campus, emphasizing the importance
of these college-and-career-readiness opportunities for all
students. This work would be completed for the start of the 2024-25
This final phase would include:
(4) renovated career/technology classroom spaces
(5) renovated business education classrooms
(3) renovated special education classrooms
(1) renovated special education resource room
(21) renovated or new general instruction
classrooms: ELA, math, social studies, AIS, ENL, career
(6) new group breakout spaces (enclosed and
(2) renovated special education classrooms
(2) renovated special education resource rooms
(2) renovated computer classrooms
(1) small learning community administration
would construction take seven years?
There are two aspects that impact the
construction time for the project. To maximize state aid, the last phase
needs to start approximately five years after the first phase. This
approach provides for state building aid to cover an additional $32
million of the project cost and helps reduce the overall local share for
the entire project to $62.7 million, or just 35 percent of the total
cost. The other reason for the construction time is that renovations of
the existing building need to be phased so that work can be completed
with minimal disruption to daily school operations.
would such a large construction project be completed while the school
continues to function?
alternative swing space in the city to accommodate 2,000-3,000 students,
Albany High School would continue to operate while under construction.
We recognize that this will cause some disruptions and aggravations for
students, staff and families throughout the project. To minimize the
impact on learning, the project would be completed in four phases over
seven years. There are several reasons for this approach, such as
addressing programmatic needs and the failing infrastructure. Another
primary reason for completing the work in phases is to build new space
that will allow relocation of students away from the spaces that will be
renovated next. In other words, the approach to safety and to minimizing
disruptions in a major project is to separate the school community from
the construction to the greatest extent possible.
In addition to
phasing the project, another aspect of
the approach we will take to minimize disruption for the students and
staff will be through engineering controls implemented through an
in-depth planning process. The State Education Department has strict
regulations that must be adhered to that deal with the effects from
construction on a school. Effects such as proper egress, noise, dust,
separation and air quality are all covered in education law. In
addition, requirements pertaining to delivery times, truck routes
and staging areas, as well as off-hour and vacation timeframes for
demolition and asbestos removal will be pre-planned to minimize
does the cost and scope of this proposal compare to other similar school
construction projects undertaken in recent years?
million proposed project would be a major investment in the future for
the Albany community. It is very much in line with similar projects that
have been undertaken in the area and nationally in recent years – and,
in fact, is more cost-effective than most considering the number of
students that will be served.
Projects are often compared to each other regarding cost. Many
comparisons are not appropriate as buildings differ in size, program,
function, systems, capacity, components, condition and location, as well
as many other factors. For a project like ours the correct indicators
Cost per square foot
For example, comparing the cost of a new 2,000-student high school
against the cost of a 3,000-student high school is not appropriate as
one is larger and has more cost.
When one looks at the cost per student and the square foot cost the
comparison is normalized. Here are some examples of recent school
construction projects in our region:
Square foot per student
Taconic (Mass.) HS
Newton (Mass.) HS
(construction completed 2010)
A few additional examples of comparable projects
within the past five years:
New York City: $230
million for 2,400 students
Atlanta, Ga., where
the cost of construction is significantly less than in New York:
$147 million for 2,400 students (1,600 currently enrolled
Los Angeles built
the most expensive high school in the United States -- $578 million
for 4,200 students. That’s nearly 200 percent more expensive than
Albany’s proposal for just 40 percent more students.
With rapidly growing
enrollment, a deteriorating building, and critical educational and
safety needs, the district has proposed a school that would serve 3,000
students or more and cost the average Albany homeowner 5 cents a day,
the average senior with that same home 4 cents a day.
Q: Why are so many
systems and structures in such bad shape?
The current Albany High School was poorly planned and poorly
constructed. Planning and construction moved forward in fits and starts
in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Construction actually began in 1970
but was halted that same year due to concerns over rapidly escalating
costs. The district, at the time still part of the City of Albany and
not yet its own separate entity, went back to work with new
architectural and engineering partners on a scaled-back proposal. The
building was downsized by a third and construction resumed on the new
plan in 1971. The new architect described the work as a “design as you
build” concept and a “loose form of construction” meant to save time and
money. The exterior of Albany High School was built with a general idea
of the interior, and the interior was designed piecemeal as construction
moved forward. The result was a modern-looking facility from the outside
that had corners cut on the inside.
For example, the walls throughout the academic building are metal and
not fully sound-proofed. The result is that discussions in neighboring
classrooms and in the hallways cause distractions and disruptions for
students and teachers. Some classrooms are built with poles in the
middle of them, and half of the classrooms have no direct light from
outside. The fact that about half of the classrooms receive direct
sunlight and half do not contributes to the difficulty in maintaining
consistent classroom temperatures throughout the building, especially
with the inefficient 42-year-old heating and cooling systems reaching
the end of their serviceable lives.
In the late 1990s, the district partnered with the community to put
together a comprehensive capital facilities plan to upgrade all of its
schools, including the high school. However, given the prohibitive costs
of including the high school (the high school component of that project
was estimated at $200 million at that time), the district decided to
omit it from the project and focus all efforts on the elementary and
middle schools. The outcome of reconstructing all of the elementary
buildings and middle schools following the successful community
referendum in December 2001 was very successful. The entire project,
completed in 2010 with a total voter-approved budget of about $204
million, was delivered on time and under budget, using quality materials
During the mid-2000s, discussions resumed to address Albany High’s
facilities needs. The district recognized that many of the school’s
systems and structures were aging and in need of major repairs or
complete replacement, but with the possibility of a new or significantly
renovated high school in discussion district leadership recognized that
investing tens of millions of dollars in replacing entire systems would
be an unwise investment of taxpayer funds if those systems were scrapped
within a few years in favor of a new school.
Instead, the district in recent years has invested in repairing and
maintaining the aging systems and facilities as best as possible while
also making investments to address health and safety issues at the
school. Several projects with no impact to taxpayers moved forward in
the late 2000s and early 2010s, including the removal of the original
carpets throughout the academic building, new ceilings and lighting,
renovations to bathrooms and locker rooms, and refurbishment of the
Q: How will the
district ensure that a new school would be properly maintained?
District staff and the Board of Education Facilities Committee work on
an ongoing basis to prioritize the needs of the district’s 20
buildings. An example of this is the $14 million of projects on 14
different buildings overwhelmingly approved by voters in May
2015. Voters have given strong support to other similar smaller projects
in recent years, including Albany High School (as noted in the previous
Q&A). Additionally, the district regularly inspects all of its buildings
and files the necessary reports to the State Education Department.
While the district would like to have all buildings in like-new
condition at all times, similar to your home budget it is a function of
budgetary decisions and allocations. The district must weigh
instructional needs, unfunded mandates and escalations in contractual
costs with building needs. At the same time, the tax impact to the
community is always front and center. Regardless of annual efforts to
maintain the district’s buildings, there will always be a need in an
organization of our size – with 20 buildings and 10,000 people in them
daily 10 months of the year – for capital projects that can’t be
absorbed in annual maintenance budgets.
The district also is confident that the thorough and detailed planning
process that has been done to date and will continue if the Feb. 9 vote
is successful, and high-quality materials and craftsmanship during all
phases of construction, the Albany community will be delivered a
superior public high school facility that would hold up much better over
time than the existing school has.
Q: What sustainable and green
technologies will be used in the new school?
would utilize high-efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning
(HVAC) equipment. During the detailed design phase that would follow a
successful referendum, systems would be evaluated that may include
geothermal heating and cooling sources.
Photovoltaic systems would be evaluated in the district’s overall
planning for this technology, as well as opportunities and incentives
available as the project progresses. Exterior wall and roof systems
would exceed energy code requirements. Materials would be selected based
on long-term durability, low maintenance and sustainable qualities.
Although a specific energy model has not been created at this phase in
the design process, it is anticipated that the implementation of
sustainable technologies would reduce the energy use of the building by
15 percent-20 percent over a building that only meets energy code
did the district develop the proposal voters will consider Feb. 9?
The original proposal that voters defeated by 92
votes (less than 1 percent of the total votes cast Nov. 3) was the
product of more than a decade of discussion about how new facilities
would best serve Albany High School students for generations to come.
The City School District of Albany began in November 2012 planning for a
proposal to rebuild and enlarge the now-42-year-old school. The
district's process in partnership with the community included dozens of
small- and large-group meetings, an online community survey and numerous
public updates at Board of Education meetings throughout the three-year
process. Even before that process officially began in late 2012 and
early 2013, an ad hoc High School Facilities Advisory Committee studied
options for a completely new or renovated Albany High during the winter
and spring of 2012. Please visit the
Rebuilding Planning Process
section of our website for more information.
Q: How have
current Albany High teachers and staff been involved in the planning
process, and would there be opportunities for additional staff input to
be factored in if voters approve the proposal Feb. 9?
Representatives of all district instructional departments have been
included over the three years of planning that went in to developing the
proposal. This resulted in a document called a “Draft Educational
Specifications” that provided the parameters for the expanded high
school in terms of the number and size of different classrooms. Most of
the details of those classrooms have not been determined yet; that work
would begin following a successful referendum. If voters approve the
project Feb. 9, the design team will be meeting with teachers,
administrators and staff to discuss specific needs for building spaces.
There will be ample opportunity for input.
should the community help pay for a new high school when the district
has not been successful in raising student achievement in the new
elementary and middle schools built or renovated during the last
deserve an inviting place for learning. That space should not be
predicated on the success that students have previously demonstrated.
The most important process in raising student achievement – and a
central element in the district’s “2020 Vision” – is to ensure that a
caring and highly competent teacher is in every classroom and that each
building leader understands the effective strategies involved in making
the core process – teacher/student/parent – work in a powerful
partnership to change student lives. Buildings do not in and of
themselves change the learning process. But school buildings that have
(a) creative spaces for learning, (b) spaces for conversations for
teams, (c) places for parents to discuss and learn, and (d) places for
our community to feel welcomed and valued
are vital for the growth and
well-being of a child. The new Albany High School would provide those
elements for our students, staff and community.
We recognize the
need and responsibility as a district to do more to accelerate student
learning and growth for all of our students. That will always be a main
focus for all of our work. However, it also is important to note that it
is impossible to accurately measure student progress in the era of
mandatory state testing for student in grades 3-8 – essentially the same
time period in which our students in those grades have moved into new or
completely renovated schools. The state tests have been reconfigured and
realigned every 2-3 years for a decade or more, and with each change in
the state tests all districts statewide saw declines in student
High School is showing signs of progress, most directly through an
increased graduation rate. The graduation rate for the Class of 2015 was
59 percent. That is the school’s highest graduation rate since 2008 (64
percent) and an increase of 5 percentage points from the Class of 2014
(54 percent). Certainly, there is significant improvement still needed,
especially for Albany High’s black and Hispanic students, and students
with disabilities. The proposed new facilities would allow the school to
provide programs and services that are more personalized and more
targeted to our students’ academic and social-emotional needs. They
would provide a school environment that supports and enhances the
ongoing efforts to improve instruction and student services.
will a new high school improve student results?
As noted in the
previous Q&A, Albany High School students are showing signs of early
gains in meeting graduation requirements. Daily attendance also has
increased in recent years, from the low 80-percent range to the low
90-percent range. The new high school would be organized to support
continued growth in both areas.
smaller learning communities (SLCs) would ensure that students within
each have a “home” section of the building that is dedicated to their
targeted work in collaboration with district partners. These partners
will include career and technical education (CTE), college and
university partners, and partners in cutting-edge technology, business,
science and medicine. In a new facility designed to meet these needs,
all of our students would be able to better interact with our staff and
partners to engage in new learning opportunities designed specifically
to catapult learning, increase graduation rates and create a structure
that allows all students to earn a minimum of six college credits and/or
an associate’s degree from our partner institutions at the same time
that they are earning their high school diploma.
facilities also would allow students to have easier access to their
teachers and other support staff for assistance during the day, in
contrast to the current four-SLC configuration that was retrofitted into
the existing school and requires many teachers to be on the move between
classrooms throughout the school day.
design incorporates classroom spaces that would encourage collaboration
and students leading their learning. This, again, would be in sharp
contrast to the current classroom design, which is primarily built to
accommodate only desks in rows focused on an instructor at the front of
the classroom – a passive learning environment rather than the dynamic,
engaging learning environments in our proposed new school. The proposed
design also includes common spaces that would allow for
cross-disciplinary collaboration and student presentations.
Physical-education facilities in the new school would be expanded to
meet the space needs for fitness and athletic programming like students
will find in the “real world” when they graduate. Adding jogging lanes
in the main gym, refurbishing the existing auxiliary spaces and adding
new auxiliary spaces would allow for fitness classes, workout spaces and
other physical-education opportunities the current athletic facilities
current art rooms, located in internal classrooms on the first floor,
are deprived of natural light and also lack adequate space for display
and storage needs. The new school would address those shortcomings
through an addition at the front of the building (along Washington
Avenue) that would be home primarily to art, music and foreign
A key element of
the design of the academic areas in the proposed new school is creating
true smaller learning communities with adaptable learning areas designed
to provide flexibility as teaching and learning methods evolve over
time. This will better allow for flexible groupings of students through
Response to Intervention (RtI) with tiered academic and social-emotional
supports, as one example.
school, with all of its deteriorating systems and drab, unimaginative
learning spaces, often fails to inspire creativity, collegiality and
enthusiasm among students, staff or families. It is the type of school
where people have to be, not where people want to be. The lack of
natural light throughout large portions of the academic building is a
subtle yet important design failing of the current facility. Providing
natural light in all learning spaces is an important design element in
the proposed new school, and research has demonstrated that this factor
alone can lead to significant improvement in student outcomes. This
would help create a more positive outlook and attitude for all and
contribute to building a more positive school culture and climate that
ultimately will benefit all students.
can’t the current high school support the district’s academic goals?
academic goals are to provide more rigorous instruction for all of our
students so they are career and college ready. This requires students to
be engaged and connected to what is being taught, and to have access to
classroom spaces that support 21st-century learning skills:
collaborative work, project-based learning, integration of technology,
etc. Our current building design will not allow us to fully achieve
these important programmatic goals. The current layout physically
restricts our students from connecting to a smaller learning community
when they have to move throughout the building to take advantage of
various offerings that can only be found in certain sections of the
building (science classes, for example).
vary in size and the space may or may not be available to effectively
implement 21st-centrury learning techniques. Some science
classes are taught in classrooms that meet only the bare minimum science
instructional requirement of having a sink, not the full facilities
students need and deserve. Teachers often will have to reserve a
computer lab or specialty room like the United Nations Room to teach
certain lessons. Ideally, we want students to have everything they need
in close proximity within their own smaller learning community or
academy to assist with being connected to school, allowing them to build
stronger relationships with teachers, administrators, counselors, etc.
The significant growth in recent years of our population of
English-language learners – and the anticipated continued growth of this
student group as more refugee families settle in Albany – also requires
additional space for our staff to provide sheltered instruction and the
support these students need to succeed.
steps or programs has the district put in place that show promise for
helping to raise achievement for Albany High students and could be
preserved in a new high school?
We are using a
rigorous curriculum design process to develop a curriculum that
encompasses the instructional strategies we have been training teachers
in over the last two years: differentiated instruction, project-based
learning, ASPIRE Strategies for Special Education students, AVID
strategies to assist students with college-readiness, sheltered
instruction protocols to support our English-language learners. We have
also implemented an online unit/credit recovery program called APEX. We
began implementing rigorous and relevant professional development for
our teachers and building leaders beginning in 2013, and those efforts
will continue. All principals district-wide are participating in
learning walks to develop a common understanding of and expectations for
We have put in a place a system of studio classrooms to help elementary
and middle-school teachers develop culturally relevant skills as we
attempt to engage all of our teachers over time and build the capacity
to embed this training in our annual professional development work led
by district staff. At the high school, our staff members are aligning
curriculum with the Common Core Learning Standards. At all levels, our
instructional coaches also are actively engaged with teachers in helping
them more effectively lead all students toward success.
the new high school have the same academies, will academies or smaller
learning communities (SLCs) be maintained in a different structure, or
will the entire SLC structure be abandoned?
The design of
the proposed new high school incorporates five SLCs and a sixth learning
community for enhanced career and technical education opportunities (the
programs currently located at the Abrookin Career and Technical Center
three blocks away from Albany High). If the vote is successful Feb. 9,
specific configurations or themes would be determined over the next
several years for the SLCs – three in a new academic wing and two in the
current academic building.
implementing the four themed SLCs at Albany High in 2011-12, we have
made significant gains in ensuring that every student has theme-based
experiences in their courses. We are beginning to see students become
more engaged, which is a key component for student learning. As
mentioned in response to a previous question above, the current physical
layout of the building interferes with effective development and design
of SLCs. However, we believe that SLCs, as the concept continues to
develop and grow, will be critical to the design of our secondary
program in the years to come.
In a large
comprehensive high school, anonymity can erode or interfere with a
student’s connection to education. Optimally designed and implemented
SLCs can help avoid that and allow all students to develop the adult
connections they need to be successful. Time and our students' needs and
interests will tell if the SLCs will remain theme-based or if they will
evolve into another format, such as learning-style-based or
career-driven, or if the future structure of Albany High will include an
upper- and lower-school configuration to provide more support for
students in their first two years and more diverse opportunities both at
school and in other academic and career-related settings for older
Q: If the
new high school does have academies, will they be different to help
achieve better results for our students?
learning communities, or SLCs, will continue to develop and utilize the
best instructional strategies to engage students in rigorous and
relevant curriculum that will prepare them for their post-secondary
career and technical education (CTE) be part of a new high school? Will
CTE become one of the academies?
previously, the development and better integration of career and
technical education is critical to the future of Albany High School.
Moving CTE onto the main campus is a critical element in our plan for
the new Albany High so that those programs, currently three blocks away
at Abrookin, become central to the fabric of the school for all
students. All of our students, whether by earning certificates or
college credit, will participate in CTE education in some fashion. This
may include current traditional careers, but must also include high-wage
technical positions to support the growing technology evolution in the
Capital Region. CTE in our school district must be broadened to ensure
access for all students in all smaller learning communities. The
proposed design incorporates significant space for CTE on the first
floor of the current academic building, not at a satellite facility
several blocks away.
partners throughout the community are poised to work with us to ensure
that all of our students have access to a powerful learning system
grades 6-12 so that our students gain the knowledge, skills, attitudes
and abilities to attain meaningful employment immediately following
graduation and gain acceptance to two- and four-year colleges and
universities. Incorporating CTE as a primary focus within Albany High
School for all students is vital to this proposed investment in our
students have opportunities to be involved in the construction process?
Are there other ways the construction project would be educational?
Construction would incorporate its Youthforce 2020 program in the
district during the project. Youthforce 2020 is an eight-week course
that provides an introduction to all aspects of construction. For more
than 10 years, CSArch has hosted interns from Albany High School, giving
them an introduction to the fields of architecture and engineering. One
of those interns has become a summer employee of the firm while he
pursues an education in architecture and has participated in design work
that has been done on the project so far. CSArch will continue to host
interns from Albany High and make the high school project part of the
learning experience with the firm. Both Turner and CSArch would work
with the high school administration to explore other educational
opportunities to use the design and construction of the high school in
the school’s curriculum.
Q: How much would
my taxes go down if the district does not invest in fixing, expanding or
rebuilding Albany High?
If no work is completed
on the high school for the next 30 years, taxes would drop by $146 on a
home assessed at $150,000 and $206 on a home assessed at
$200,000. However, this is not a reasonable expectation since the school
is in need of more than $100 million of work just to update it and
expand it to meet enrollment projections, investments that would not
take into account educational, programmatic or safety needs.
there alternatives to the project that is proposed?
Doing nothing is
not an option for Albany High School, so, yes, there are alternatives to
the proposed renovation and construction project. However, the cost of
necessary upgrades and repairs would be about $55.7 million, and the
cost of an addition to serve the anticipated growth in student
population would be an additional $45.6 million by today’s estimates.
These investments, totaling more than $100 million, would not address
the location of the career and technical education programs three blocks
away at Abrookin, the primary safety and security concerns created by
the open courtyard and hidden hallways, or the inadequate classroom and
learning spaces in the main academic building. It would allow Albany
High to continue on status quo, which the district does not see as a
viable option if we are to meet our goals of significantly increasing
student success and Albany High’s graduation rate. It is not the level
of investment we believe our students and community deserve for the
happens if the Feb. 9 referendum is unsuccessful?
The Board of
Education would have to decide next steps. However, a second “no” vote
would send a clear message that the community is not prepared to invest
in the future of Albany High School at this time. The board could decide
to forego a single facilities project and handle the building’s repair
and space needs piecemeal over time. This would be a more expensive
option in the long run, and also would be a vastly inferior option in
terms of meeting the academic and support needs of our students and our
community into the future.