School Configuration & Capital Project Update – Jan. 16, 2020

As a reminder, community forums on school configuration will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 22, at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday, Jan. 25, at 10:30 a.m. Both forums will be held in the Niskayuna High School Little Theater. RSVP to attend

At the Board of Education meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 14, there were presentations from Instructional Program and Transportation subcommittees of the Capital Project Committee and an update from our architects. Key points are below with links to the full presentations.
As a reminder, there are three K-8 school configuration options under consideration, and we are discussing the potential for prekindergarten. The three options are: The current configuration of five, K-5 elementary schools and two, grade 6-8 middle schools; Five, K-4 elementary schools and a grade 5-6 school and a grade 7-8 school serving students districtwide; and five, K-5 elementary schools with a single grade 6-8 middle school.

Middle Level Education

In recent Thoughexchanges, advantages that middle school teachers have identified with the single middle school option and 5-6/7-8 option include: greater equity and consistency; schedule flexibility and program enhancements, and professional development and teacher collaboration.

Advantages with the current model of two, 6-8 schools that middle school teachers identified included: having smaller, more neighborhood-based middle schools and, similar to feedback for the other options, that this approach is developmentally appropriate.

Feedback from middle school teachers also included that current configuration is inequitable and has scheduling limitations that are not beneficial for students.

The group’s research indicated that when students make a transition is less important than making sure the transition is well-planned with appropriate support.

The 2011 Middle School Review and 2018 District Program Vision establish a clear vision for middle-level education in Niskayuna and that no matter which configuration is chosen, there is a desire to re-envision our middle school program to better reflect that vision.


  • In recent Thoughtexchanges, elementary teachers highlighted the benefits of PreK for early intervention, play and socialization, and school readiness.
  • Of the current kindergarten class, 251 students attended some form of PreK and 71 did not.
  • Benefits teachers associated with having PreK at each school included that this is better for families and would help students make a connection with their elementary school.
  • Teachers indicated that a centralized PreK program could benefit students with special needs and provide more opportunities for teacher/service provider collaboration.
  • The costs of adding a PreK program would be significant, as it would involve an estimated 13 class sections and additional staffing and support expenses.

Transportation Assessment

  • The current configuration is the easiest option to implement, as the district would only need to add a modest number of buses as student enrollment increases.
  • With the K-4 elementary schools and a 5-6 and 7-8 schools, transportation would work better if the 5-6 school and 7-8 schools have the same start time.
  • Having a single middle school would result in increase in the number of buses traveling to and from this location. In particular, concerns were raised about putting this amount of bus traffic, combined with parents and other motorists, on Rosendale Road.

Architect’s Report

  • Jim King from King + King Architects walked the Board through a broad timeline leading up to the targeted capital project vote date of Dec. 15, 2020.
  • Between now and March, the architects will establish a range of estimated costs and local tax impacts for each of the three options.
  • A configuration decision is needed by May 1.
  • The one option and associated graphics for the work at all schools will be developed in greater detail by early fall 2020.
  • Final decisions about the capital project work, budget, and anticipated local tax impact will be made by Oct. 31.

Next Steps

  • School Configuration Community Forums: Jan. 22 and 25 RSVP here
  • Architects will be at the Board meeting on Jan. 27 as the process continues.
  • The capital project committee will continue working as needed.
  • Information sharing will be ongoing.We thank the individuals who presented at the meeting from the Capital Project Community Advisory Committee and many others for the work that has brought us to this point.

Links to Board Presentations