Friday, 28 December 2012 00:00
Garden City residents were invited to take a tour of the high school Tuesday, Dec. 11 to see the numerous improvements that have taken place to the building as a result of the 2009 school investment bond and energy performance project.
Members of the board of education, including Superintendent of Schools Robert Feirsen, along with some of the contractors and architects who worked on the building, walked residents through the new music addition and updated classrooms and offices, explaining the changes that were completed over the summer.
On the tour, Feirsen noted that the improvements to the schools were not done because more students were coming to Garden City’s schools.
“Expansion was not driven by enrollment, it occurred because we needed to give students a better educational experience,” Feirsen said.
One of the first repairs to the school was a new watertight, more insulated roof. Feirsen noted that previously, anytime it rained, the corridor would be full of leaks and the ceiling would be dripping and stained with wet spots. The old roof required constant patchwork, but now, the school can rest at ease that the roof can withstand harsh weather.
Another priority was improving the flow of traffic before and after school. Previously, students would get on buses at both Rockaway Avenue and Merillon Avenue, which according to Feirsen created a traffic jam.
“Rockaway Avenue was not really built for buses. From the time classes got out, to ten minutes after, it was chaos,” Feirsen said.
Now, there are no buses on Rockaway and a bus loop has been added to Merillon Avenue, which is not only safer, but more aesthetically pleasing. Additional parking for visitors and staff has also been added.
The Merillon Avenue entrance lobby and attendance office has also been revamped, creating a logical point of entry for parents and guests who come to the school.
Several offices not only got upgrades, with new furniture and equipment, but they were also relocated to provide a more practical order to the school’s layout. The social worker’s office, guidance office and nurse’s office were all moved to the same corridor, making it easier for students and staff to get the information they need in one place as opposed to having to go all over the building.
The guidance office also now features a new counseling center, which is a huge asset to the department for when college representatives come and want to meet with students. The nurse’s office was moved to a much larger space, which now provides more privacy and opportunities for examination.
A problem with the previous configuration of the high school was that teachers had no place to meet without being surrounded by students. Now, each department has its own faculty office where teachers have desks and their own space. Department heads also have their own cubicle-like space within the office, where they can meet with teachers, parents or students in private, as opposed to before when they either had to conduct the meeting in the midst of several other faculty members, or ask everyone else to leave because of the lack of space. A phone system has also been set up within the school so that faculty and staff can call each other, as opposed to having to find each one another within the building.
One of the more notable changes to the high school is the new music addition. New rooms have been specially designed for the chorus, band and orchestra, where previously they had to go to either the library or auditorium for rehearsal. The new addition also features smaller practice rooms. All the rooms also feature microphones that hang from the ceiling, allowing for recording, and there is plenty of storage space for instruments.
At the board of education meeting directly following the tour, Albert Chase, assistant superintendent for business and finance, discussed improvements in some of the other Garden City district schools. The middle school added a new gym, updated their locker and fitness rooms, and converted their old gym to three classrooms. In addition, they created a bus loop for better traffic flow and added additional parking. The ceiling in the middle school was also replaced throughout the first floor. In the Homestead school, a new library and classroom were added, and all the windows in the building were replaced.
Other improvements to the school buildings may be less noticeable, but have a huge impact both financially and on the environment. The district made several energy improvements, including energy efficient lighting with sensors that detect whether a room is in use and shut off accordingly, computer network controls to regulate building temperature on a room by room basis, and heating controls and energy management systems which allow the building operations staff to regulate the temperature in each individual classroom. Exterior doors have been replaced at the schools, as well as district-wide caulking and sealing of windows and doors.
The district is also receiving duel fuel boilers that allow them to use either gas or oil, depending on which is less expensive at the time. The seven Garden City schools are currently using oil; however, they are hoping to switch to gas as soon as possible since oil is three times more expensive. According to a representative from Con Edison Solutions, complications with National Grid are slowing down the process.
The expansion and improvements were funded by the 2009 school investment bond. The total anticipated expenditure of funds to complete all the work was originally $36.5 million. However, due to the weak economy, low interest rates and a limited number of plan modifications, the estimated expenditure of the project as of December 2012 is $33.9 million, resulting in the district saving an estimated $2.6 million.
“This is money that we’re not borrowing, that the community will not have to pay back,” Chase said.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the high school’s music addition will be held Monday, Jan. 7 at 3:30 p.m. There will also be a ribbon cutting for the middle school Wednesday, Jan. 9 at 3:45 p.m. All are welcome to attend. 1