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From the interim superintendent -- Fall 2016

Planning for our future

 

Our enrollment is booming,which is good news. However, it means we have to make more room for middle-school students by next September.

That’s why the City School District of Albany has a plan to open a third middle school in 2017-18. That school will have a temporary (3-5 years) enrollment pattern pending long-term enrollment recommendations from the Grade Configuration Steering Committee (see related story).

The $6.5 million proposal would not affect tax bills of homeowners or businesses because the funds will come from a combination of state aid and the district’s Capital Reserve Fund, a savings account for long-term building projects (see related story).

On Jan. 10, voters will have the opportunity to weigh in on that plan, the first step of a long-term strategy to accommodate our growing population. (Later this fall, the Board of Education also approved a second tax-free facilities referendum for Jan. 10. That vote, Proposition #2, would allow the district to buy the school at 395 Elk St., for $4.1 million, again, with no additional impact on taxes).

The newest middle school would be located at 50 North Lark St., the former home of New Covenant Charter School and current location of the district’s Alternative Learning Center. The district purchased the now-closed charter school in 2012 with voter approval and an eye toward using it to accommodate the district’s increasing enrollment.

If the Jan. 10 referendum is approved, dollars will go toward renovating classrooms so they can accommodate middle-school students.

Our need for another middle-school building is evident. The number of students in grades 6-8 has increased by about 360 since 2011, and we anticipate there will be 425 more middle-school students by September 2025. There is simply not enough space in the district’s existing middle-school buildings to accommodate that growth.

The Board of Education approved an enrollment plan for the newest middle school that calls for students from four elementary schools to attend the school: Arbor Hill Elementary School, North Albany Academy, Philip Schuyler Achievement Academy and Sheridan Preparatory Academy.

Also attending the newest middle school would be the remaining students at West Hill Middle School, a temporary school opened in 2015 to accommodate
the closing of two charter middle schools. That building was not an option for the third school; the district rents it and the lease is up at the end of June.

The enrollment pattern for the new school is temporary and will be in place 3-5 years. In the meantime, over the next 10 months the Grade Configuration Steering Committee will consider and recommend a long-term permanent enrollment plan where all elementary schools would serve students from prekindergarten-grade 5 and all middle schools would serve students in grades 6-8.

The middle school at 50 North Lark will be part of a long-term facilities investment that meets an immediate need. The time is now to invest in a facility that would provide equitable programs and services for the students who will attend it, and we are fortunate that we can create such a facility without raising taxes in Albany.

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