Few attend tours for school capital project

Vote is Tuesday on $18.8M upgrade of Saranac Lake school district buildings

BLOOMINGDALE — The vote for the Saranac Lake Central School District’s $18.8 million capital project is just four days away, yet attendance has been low at all three building tour and informational meetings.

Administration officials held the tours on Dec. 13 at Saranac Lake High School, Dec. 20 at Petrova Elementary and Saranac Lake Middle School, and Thursday at Bloomingdale Elementary, and at each, only a couple of residents came out. Other than district employees and one reporter, a combined total of six to eight people attended.

Thursday’s third and final building tour and informational meeting focused on the improvements at that school, which will include adding doors to rooms in the original building. The original building was constructed in 1967 with an open-concept theme in which classrooms did not have doors.

“It’s wide open; they have their coat racks and that stuff outside here in the hallways,” Director of Facilities Vernon James said. “In this day and age, the needs for lockdowns or anything like that if anything goes wrong, we don’t have that capability down here in this wing. That’s what we would be looking to do, in each one: walling this off, putting in a fire-rated door with lockdown capabilities on it.”

The school will also replace the electrical service, switching its main distribution panel with a new circuit breaker and improve ventilation.

“The nurse’s office and the teacher’s workroom and work space has no mechanical ventilation in there, in or out, fresh air in or exhaust out,” James said. “So we’re looking at putting in an air handler unit in to take care of those areas.”

The district is also seeking to replace the boilers, which it has had since 1967, and the school’s electrical generator, used in case of a power outage.

“This building is no different than our other two buildings,” James said. “Our generator is not automatic start. It’s manual start, so someone has to come and start it. It’s a very small one; most people have a bigger one in their house. Here, unfortunately, all it powers are the boilers, and we have students here, and if the power goes out, it’s pretty hard for the school.”

The district will also upgrade wiring to support the Voice over Internet Protocol system, upgrade the public announcement system and create a secure vestibule at the main entry.

“We are looking at doing a double vestibule for the main entrance, same as the other buildings,” James said. “What we have now is, they’re outside, they get buzzed in the main door, and once anyone gets buzzed in, they have clear access to the whole rest of the building, so there’s no secondary catch. The bad guys aren’t going to sign in at the main office.”

The total project cost for the elementary school will be approximately $350,569 in Phase 1, which is expected to start in 2018 upon state approval, and $682,377 in Phase 2, which is anticipated in 2023.

The capital project will also include infrastructure, power and security upgrades to Petrova Elementary and Saranac Lake Middle schools, the former Lake Colby Elementary School, which now offers day care services, Saranac Lake High School and the bus garage.

District officials expect to tackle the project in three phases: a $2 million Phase 1A focused on Petrova and the high school, a $10.4 million Phase 1, and a $6.4 million Phase 2. Improvements to Bloomingdale will be made in Phase 1 and Phase 2, when the district will make general, electrical and plumbing updates to all schools.

The capital project vote will take place from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Jan. 10 at the high school district office on Canaras Avenue.