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Board narrows middle-school options to two; October meetings planned

ALBANY, N.Y. (Sept. 26, 2018) – The City School District of Albany Board of Education has narrowed the list of potential new middle-school options to two and scheduled public meetings for October to allow families and community members to learn more and offer feedback.


The district is planning more space in its middle schools to handle increased enrollment, and to move all sixth-graders to middle school. The two proposals the board moved forward at its Sept. 13 meeting emerged from a three-year planning process that included families, community members and district staff, as well as extensive board review. 


You can download the presentation from the Sept. 13 board meeting, as well as a project summary that also was shared at the meeting.


The district will present the two proposals in detail at four public meetings in October to obtain family and community input. The meetings are scheduled for the following dates: 

  • Wednesday, Oct. 3 – North Albany Academy, 6:30-8 p.m. Download the presentation.

  • Tuesday, Oct. 16 – William S. Hackett Middle School, 6:30-8 p.m.

  • Monday, Oct. 22 – Arbor Hill Elementary School, 6:30-8 p.m.

  • Tuesday, Oct. 23 – Pine Hills Elementary School, 6:30-8 p.m.


The board plans to incorporate input from these meetings into its final decision, anticipated for the Nov. 1 board meeting to be held at North Albany beginning at 7 p.m.


Once the board selects a final option, voters will have the opportunity to approve or reject the proposed facilities project through a public referendum next year. If voters approve the plan, no changes are anticipated to middle-school enrollment patterns before 2023-24. The board anticipates continuing to use elementary attendance to determine middle-school feeder patterns. A committee consisting of community members and district staff will be developed to determine the specific feeder patterns.


However, the current construction timeline for both proposals would relocate North Albany’s elementary students to Arbor Hill Elementary School beginning with the 2022-23 school year to allow facilities work that would convert North Albany to a middle school. The Albany International Center program at North Albany would remain in place until 2023-24.


Construction work under both proposals would begin with renovations to expand Arbor Hill Elementary in the spring of 2021. Arbor Hill Elementary would remain open throughout the renovation process.


Enrollment growth

The district’s enrollment grew by nearly 1,400 students from the 2008-09 school year through the 2017-18 school year. Most of that growth was due to the closure of five charter schools (four of them middle schools), and a significant increase in the city’s refugee and immigrant population.


The district’s English as a New Language programs added nearly 1,000 students over a five-year period.


An enrollment study conducted last winter and presented to the board in April projected that the district’s enrollment in grades 6-8 would range from 2,030 in the 2023-24 school year to 2,144 in the 2027-28 school year. This was 160 to 205 fewer middle-school students (depending on the year) than had been projected in the prior demographic report, completed in 2015.


Best solution for sixth-graders

The 2015-16 Grade Configuration Steering Committee considered a number of possible grade groupings for elementary and middle schools. The committee ultimately recommended the district move to a prekindergarten-5 model for elementary school and a 6-8 model for middle school. 


The committee found that academic performance of sixth-graders in middle school is substantially better than sixth-graders in elementary school, and that students entering middle school at both sixth and seventh grade created challenges for students and for academic programming. 


In addition, the committee found that middle-school principals strongly recommended a three-year middle school to build student and teacher relationships that put students on the road to success in high school.


In June 2016, the board adopted the recommendation to transition to a 6-8 middle-school model for all students.


The second phase of the planning process, starting in September 2016, sought to identify the best way to increase middle-school capacity to accommodate the approximately 225 sixth-graders still in elementary schools.


The committee considered building a new middle school, and various possible ways to reconfigure the district’s existing buildings. In September 2017, the committee recommended two options focused on North Albany and Arbor Hill Elementary as possible new middle schools.


The board requested a feasibility study of several options based on the committee’s recommendations. The board received information about seven potential options for review in April, narrowed those options to four in May, and selected the two remaining proposals in September.


The proposals

In both proposals, the district would convert North Albany from an elementary school to a middle school. The district would reassign North Albany’s elementary students to Arbor Hill, and remodel Arbor Hill to accommodate these additional students.


The district is continuing to evaluate potential transportation options to assist families with that transition if the plans move forward. North Albany is also the home of Albany International Center, which the district would relocate in both projects.


One proposal anticipates a 500-seat middle school at North Albany and fixes the number of middle schools district-wide at four. The other proposal anticipates a 650-seat middle school at North Albany and allows for three middle schools, with an option to add a fourth if needed based on another look at the district’s enrollment in the 2020-21 school year.


Here is a glance at the two proposals under consideration.


 500-Seat North Albany Option
Formerly Option A/D)

Four Middle Schools

650-Seat North Albany Option
 (Formerly Option E/Plus)

Three or Four

Middle Schools

North Albany Academy



Hackett Middle School



Myers Middle School



O’Neal Middle School



Arbor Hill Elementary

4-deep ES

4-deep ES

Tony Clement Center

40 middle-schoolers
(175 total enrollment 7-12)

40 middle-schoolers
(175 total enrollment 7-12)

Albany International Center

60 middle-schoolers
(175 total enrollment 6-12)

60 middle-schoolers
(175 total enrollment 6-12)

Possible new location for the Albany International Center

Abrookin or Harriet Gibbons

O’Neal or Abrookin
or Harriet Gibbons

Total capacity



Estimated construction costs at NAA and Arbor Hill *


$26.5 million – $27.3 million


$27.2 million – $28.5 million


Estimated construction costs at Abrookin or Harriet Gibbons for the Albany International

Center *

$3.65 million

$0 if three middle schools are sufficient, and AIC moves

to O’Neal.

$3.65 million if four schools are needed.

* The cost of construction to Albany taxpayers would be offset by state building aid and covered in part by funds the district has already set aside in the Capital Reserve Fund. The exact amount of aid the project would receive and Capital Reserve Funds available will be determined at a later date and in advance of a public vote. The final cost estimate will depend on availability of space at the North Albany YMCA.


The 500-seat North Albany proposal would accommodate all students in grades 6-8 based on the current enrollment estimates, with middle schools at Hackett (650 students), Myers (650), O’Neal (500 or 350, depending on enrollment needs) and North Albany (500). 


However, the district would be locked into four middle schools even if enrollment projections decline from the current estimates since there would not be a third 650-seat building available. This would increase annual operating costs for the middle schools, in part because 500-seat middle schools are the most expensive to run on a per-student basis.


The 650-seat North Albany proposal would allow for either three middle schools (Hackett, Myers and North Albany all at 650) or four middle schools (Hackett and Myers at 650, O’Neal at 500 or 350, and North Albany at 500 or 650) depending on enrollment needs. 


A final decision would be made based on the new demographic study planned for 2020‑21 to provide a more accurate picture of enrollment needs closer to the 2023-24 occupancy date.


The 500-seat North Albany proposal and the four-school option of the 650-seat North Albany proposal both anticipate that the district would relocate Albany International Center.


Possible future locations are Albany High School’s Abrookin Career and Technical Center and the Harriet Gibbons Student Services Center, currently home to the district’s Central Registration, Special Education and Transportation offices at 75 Watervliet Ave.


By 2023-24, the district will relocate the programs currently housed at Abrookin to the main high-school campus as part of the current Rebuilding Albany High School project. That would free up space for the international center.


If the district opts for Harriet Gibbons as the new home for the international center, the district would move the administrative offices currently located there to Abrookin.


The mission of the City School District of Albany is to work in partnership with our diverse community to engage every learner in a robust educational program designed to provide the knowledge and skills necessary for success. The district serves about 9,500 students in 18 elementary, middle and high schools. In addition to neighborhood schools, the district includes several magnet schools and programs, as well as other innovative academic opportunities for students, including four themed academies at Albany High School.

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