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Voters approve two tax-free facilities proposals Jan. 10
Plans for 50 North Lark middle school, purchase of 395 Elk address equity, enrollment growth

ALBANY, N.Y. (Jan. 11, 2017) -- Albany voters showed overwhelming support Jan. 10 for two tax-free facilities proposals that will allow the City School District of Albany to provide equity for students who will attend a new middle school beginning next school year and address the district's rapidly growing enrollment needs.


Proposition #1 on Jan. 10 will allow the district to perform $6.5 million in renovations and updates to the district's building at 50 North Lark St., which will become a new middle school beginning in 2017-18. Voters approved that proposal 2,005-678 (75 percent approval).


Proposition #2 will allow the district to spend $4.1 million to buy the building it currently rents at 395 Elk St. Voters approved that proposal 2,061-615 (77 percent approval).


 Neither proposal will have any impact on taxes for homeowners or businesses.


For more information about both proposals, please read our Frequently Asked Questions. You also can download a PowerPoint presentation on the two proposals.


The renovations at 50 North Lark will be paid for through a combination of state aid (80 percent, or $5.2 million) and the district's Capital Reserve Fund ($1.3 million). Albany voters established the fund in 2014 to allow the district to save for long-term facilities needs.


The question for voters on the 50 North Lark proposal was not about whether to open a new middle school at that location. The Grade Configuration Steering Committee made that recommendation to the Board of Education during the 2015-16 school year and the board approved the opening of the new middle school to meet the district's urgent enrollment needs. District enrollment from prekindergarten through grade 8 has grown by more than 26 percent (more than 1,400 students) over the past eight years and will continue to grow well into the next decade.


The Jan. 10 decision about the renovations at 50 North Lark was about the type of school the students will attend, and the programs and services the district will be able to provide there when the new middle school opens in September.


The district currently uses 50 North Lark (originally New Covenant Charter School before that school failed in 2010) for its alternative-education programs. The district is proposing to move the Alternative Learning Center to 395 Elk in 2017-18. Brighter Choice charter schools built 395 Elk six years ago for more than $15 million; the district’s purchase of 395 Elk equates to 27 cents on the dollar.


The Brighter Choice charter middle schools failed in 2015 and the district has rented the building for West Hill Middle School the last two school years.


The purchase of 395 Elk will be paid for entirely from the district’s Capital Reserve Fund. An additional benefit to taxpayers of buying 395 Elk this winter will be that the district also will save about $169,000 in lease payments for the remainder of the school year. That cuts the district’s proposed overall investment in buying 395 Elk to about $3.93 million.


West Hill Middle School currently serves students in grades 7-8. It will close as a middle school at the end of the current school year. The students currently in seventh grade there will relocate to 50 North Lark for eighth grade in 2017-18 as part of the district’s temporary (3-5 years) enrollment plan for the new middle school. The district's Grade Configuration Steering Committee is working this year on proposals for the board to consider on long-term facilities and enrollment needs.


In addition to the current West Hill seventh-graders, students from the following schools will attend the new middle school at 50 North Lark through the temporary enrollment pattern:

  • Arbor Hill Elementary School -- current grades 5-6 (Arbor Hill Elementary becomes a prekindergarten-grade 5 school beginning in 2017-18)

  • North Albany Academy -- current grades 5-7 (North Albany becomes a prekindergarten-grade 5 school beginning in 2017-18)

  • Schuyler Achievement Academy -- current grade 5 (Schuyler remains a prekindergarten-grade 5 school)

  • Sheridan Preparatory Academy -- current grade 5 (Sheridan Prep remains a prekindergarten-grade 5 school

The new middle school at 50 North Lark will open with about 400 total students in September. The district expects enrollment to grow to about 575 students by 2019-20.


The district cannot continue to use 395 Elk as a middle school because most of the classrooms do not meet State Education Department specifications for regular education. State Ed gave the district clearance to operate 395 Elk as a middle school on a temporary basis due to the sudden closure of the charter schools, but 395 Elk cannot be used for regular education on a permanent, long-term basis.


However, 395 Elk is an ideal building for the district’s Alternative Learning Center, which is built around smaller class sizes and fewer total students (about 140 students currently).


The almost-new three-story, 54,000-square-foot building at 395 Elk has a total capacity of 350-400 students and is divided into two equal schools connected by common areas such as the cafeteria, gym, music rooms and offices. The district’s plan for its alternative programs there beginning in September is to serve students in grades 7-8 on one side and students in 9-12 on the other.


The mission of the City School District of Albany is to educate and prepare all students for college and career, citizenship and life, in partnership with our diverse community. The district serves more than 9,600 students in 17 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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