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Three years ago, the Bedford Central School District identified a long list of facilities improvements for its seven school buildings and athletic facilities at the Fox Lane campus.
That master planning process estimated potential projects of up to $112 million as part of the upgrade to infrastructure and learning spaces. The Board of Education spent multiple meetings earlier this school year deliberating and ultimately prioritizing the district’s needs that will result in a two-proposition referendum next Tuesday.
First, there’s the $58.9 million Proposition 1 consisting of infrastructure upgrades at every school plus reconfiguring portions of Fox Lane Middle School and Fox Lane High School to improve the learning environments and functionality of the district’s two secondary schools. The proposition also includes work at the administration and grounds and transportation buildings.
Proposition 2, worth $3,651,000, would add air conditioning to the second and third floors at the high school’s A and C wings to alleviate uncomfortable heat on warm days in September, May and June. The first proposition must be approved for the additional air conditioning to be done.
Now the public will be asked for their support on May 17, the same day as the district’s budget vote and Board of Education election to maintain the buildings and bring the middle school and high school into the 21st century.
“We’re really trying to get our infrastructure and learning environments really to be in line with the vision, the mission and the core values of the district,” said Board of Education President John Boucher.
The greatest share of the work would be at the middle school and high school. Of the nearly $59 million in Proposition 1, the high school would see $20.3 million worth of improvements. That would include the renovation of more than 25,000 square feet of space to create a new learning exchange that brings together the current library, cafeterias, guidance and art offices, career center and art gallery.
Boucher said that the first floor will be reconfigured so it would resemble how many college spaces operate today.
“When you walk in that front door (at the high school), all you see is a long, narrow corridor and you don’t really realize the library is on the left and the cafeteria is on the right and guidance is a little farther down,” he said.
Other high school spatial and learning environment improvements would be to renovate the current student commons, convert the small gym to a fitness center and renovate the existing fitness center, which is in the basement. Some of the current locker rooms will be used for coaches’ offices, a referee locker room and other purposes.
The middle school would see about $18.2 million of work including $8.9 million for learning and spatial improvements. Those highlights would include a 1,300-square-foot main entry addition with a canopy; a covered walkway to the school’s gym building; a new 350-seat amphitheater for outdoor classes and performances; renovation of the first floor, second-floor music area and third-floor technology spaces to STEAM labs; and an outdoor shelter at the gym building.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Joel Adelberg said while the largest items, including another $7.7 million for the high school and middle school campus athletic facilities, would benefit the secondary schools, educational experiences for all students who go through the district would be improved.
“I think it’s a really thoughtful bond, future-focused with tremendous opportunities for our students, to the next generation,” Adelberg said. “You pass a bond now, the kids that will be most impacted are a few years down the line. I think there’s incredible potential opportunities – the learning exchange, the outdoor learning opportunities, the wellness focus, the STEAM focus, so I think that’s why the comments we’ve been hearing have been really positive.”
The amphitheater, for example, would also be used by students in the primary grades for various programs, he said.
The athletics facilities portion of the bond will see improvements to the multipurpose synthetic turf field that is used for baseball and would also accommodate regulation soccer, lacrosse and field hockey surfaces. Attention would also be paid to Field 4 as well as the softball field and the tennis courts.
Three new restroom facilities would be added. Boucher said when crowds come to the campus for sporting events, spectators are forced to use port-o-johns or go searching for a bathroom inside one of the schools, potentially creating an unsafe situation.
In addition to infrastructure upgrades at all of the district’s schools, communications improvements would be made districtwide that would enhance security, and air conditioning would be installed for the second floor at Mount Kisco Elementary School.
Boucher said the district’s bond counsel advised school officials that a bond of up to $70 million would be tax-levy neutral because of expiring debt. That projection is assuming a 100-basis-point increase in interest rates by the time the district would borrow next year, he said.
“Going down to the $62 million level also gives us a little more flexibility in that if we need to extend the term of the bonds a little bit, if we want to continue to keep it tax-levy neutral, then there’s that flexibility,” Boucher said.
Most of the work would be done during the summers from 2023 through 2025 to minimize distraction when school is in session, he said. Work that would not impact instruction could be done during the school year.
Boucher and Adelberg are hopeful that the public will turn out to support the bond next Tuesday. They agree it would help keep Bedford schools competitive and attract families to the district.
“The sentiment has been relatively positive,” Boucher said. “Certainly, no negative sentiment, and we’re also hearing positives through our parent-teacher organizations.”
Voting will take place from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. next Tuesday, May 17. Each registered voter can go to their local elementary school to vote.
Martin has more than 30 years experience covering local news in Westchester and Putnam counties, including a frequent focus on zoning and planning issues. He has been editor-in-chief of The Examiner since its inception in 2007. Read more from Martin’s editor-author bio here. Read Martin’s archived work here: https://www.theexaminernews.com/author/martin-wilbur2007/