Q&A: Capital Project Planning

Program vision to drive study and capital project committee work

The Q&A below is an introduction to the capital project planning process that the district is beginning. The timeline calls for a facilities proposal to go before voters in 2020, with a significant amount of planning and community input scheduled to take place prior to any decisions about what the project will include. The process will be guided by a community-based Capital Project Advisory Committee that is being established. The committee will be comprised of a cross-section of the community, as indicated in the letter seeking volunteers that was mailed to all households in May.

The process will be driven by the vision for the future of programs in the district and informed by a projected enrollment increase, facilities needs, and a consultant’s study of program delivery options, including school configuration.

Q. Why is it necessary to begin planning for a capital project?

A. The district is focused on ensuring that schools are safe, functioning, and have sufficient space for students. Enrollment and capacity studies conducted in 2017 projected the potential for modest or moderate enrollment growth in the next decade, while more than 90 percent of existing capacity is already being used. The district also wants to ensure that its facilities are suited for modern learning experiences. The most recent building condition survey identified a variety of infrastructure issues that should be addressed in the coming years, from deteriorating parking lots to aging building systems and lighting, flooring, and ventilation issues.

Q. What is the vision for academic programs?

A. The vision for academic programs is emerging through efforts such as the ongoing department program reviews and the work of the Instructional Program Advisory Council. It includes more hands-on and interdisciplinary learning, accelerated and/or high school-level learning opportunities in middle school, elementary world language study, and more exposure to real-world and career-based learning experiences at all levels. The vision will continue to be developed and refined.

Q. What does it mean to study “program delivery” options?

A. This refers to all aspects of how instruction is organized, including school schedules and the way space is used or the type of space that is needed, as well as grade-level configurations. The consultant is charged with preparing a study that identifies if there are “quality and cost-effective” ways to deliver the program given the vision and projected enrollment increase.

Q. Why are school configuration options part of the study?

As facilities investments and program changes are considered, it is the right time to ask if there are options that would better support students and be more cost-effective. It remains possible that the current configuration won’t change. Yet, district officials believe it is important to understand if there are other approaches that would better support hands-on learning and interdisciplinary activities in the early/middle grades or if there are ways to become more efficient and “free up” the resources needed to invest in new learning opportunities.

Q. Will closing a school be considered?

A. No. The study will only look at potential options to use existing buildings differently.

Q. What other problems or opportunities does the district want to address through the study and capital project planning?

A. The district plans to address traffic flow at Niskayuna High School, the deteriorating high school track and outdoor athletic facility improvements, and enhancing shared services and efficiency, including through the Hillside Avenue bus garage. School safety will be a significant component of capital project planning.

Q. What happens next, and how will the community be involved?

A. The approximately 40 members of the Capital Project Community Advisory Committee will be announced in August and the group will begin meeting in late summer. The consultant’s study will be presented by the fall of 2019. There will be additional opportunities for public input as the study is considered and the specifics of the capital project are formulated.