It is an exciting time at Unadilla Valley Central School District.
With the school building now in its 15th year, the first set of major renovations since the original construction is now largely complete. This is your school building and the district’s mission is to provide our students with a facility the whole community can be proud of, both in form and substance.
We are hosting an open house from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Dec. 9 to give all members of the community the chance to see the renovations first hand. It will include building tours, refreshments, FFA Store sales and a chance to meet staff and faculty. The open house will be the same day as the Drama Club production of “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.”
The $12.8 million project was approved by voters in May 2015. The project is being funded through a combination of building aid from New York State, EXCEL aid, the district’s capital reserve fund, and the funding from the Smart Schools Bond Act. There is no increase to school taxes in association with the project.
“The biggest part of this project is maintenance, which includes lighting, windows and heating and ventilation upgrades, make it a more comfortable environment in every room,” Superintendent Robert Mackey said.
While these renovations will help cut energy costs, other aspects of the project are intended to directly boost learning opportunities for students, as well as to better position the school building as a community resource for adults.
“We have made modifications to multiple areas in the building that I think that make the concept of STEAM possible at Unadilla valley,” Mackey said. “We were close before, but I think we are right there now.”
STEAM, or Science, Technology, Engineering Arts and Math, is an integrated approach to education where collaboration, project-based learning, critical thinking and encouraging creativity give today’s students the experience relevant to the careers they will pursue tomorrow. A makerspace is an area where learners can share technology, equipment and knowledge while working on projects.
“These renovations offer students a makerspace like they have never had before. It’s a safe makerspace, a technologically advanced makerspace that I don’t think exists anywhere right now in this region,” Mackey said. “Given the set-up and the layout that was designed I believe students can go from an idea on a small piece of scrap paper to a complete manufactured product and every step in between and all they have to do is move 50 feet from one end of the hallway to the other.”
Although a key feature of the project was related to renovations for new Ag and Tech classroom space, other parts of the building also received improvements. Common areas, such as the library, gymnasiums, pool, and fitness room received upgrades.
“We are in a position where we hope over time to allow increased community use of the building,” Mackey said.
With much of the project focused on HVAC and lighting efficiencies, a significant reduction in the use of electricity is expected, according to Mackey.
“If we can keep inflationary increases from being large it allows us to tie things back to student programs, and even adult education down the road would be wonderful,” Mackey said.
But building maintenance and planning doesn’t stop with any one project. It’s a constant process.
As the district celebrates the opening of new learning spaces and a more energy efficient building, the Board of Education, administration and staff are looking to the next phase of improvements. Although details still need to be developed with the assistance of community advisory committees, it is expected the district will put forth a capital project during the school budget vote in May 2018 that will continue to focus on energy efficiency and revitalizing classroom space.
“We are entrusted by the community to be good stewards of school district property. A vital component of that is to ensure our school building remains an efficient, safe and productive facility for learning,” Mackey said.