Bedford school district officials have begun evaluating the potential for a major bond issue either later this year or next spring to address a wide assortment of infrastructure and facility needs throughout the district.
Last week, the Board of Education listened to representatives from BBS Architects of Patchogue, N.Y. who listed extensive repairs and renovations to the district’s buildings and grounds. Items include reconstructing classrooms in portions of the oldest school buildings, making spaces more suitable for 21st century STEM and STEAM instruction and enhancing the high school’s sports facilities.
The list of projects, which would include work at each of the seven school buildings and the administration building, was estimated to cost about $66.7 million, although that sum is likely to be whittled. The board already has about seven or eight residents who have volunteered for the Bond Committee, which will assist school officials in prioritizing the list of projects for the district to pursue, said Board Vice President Edward Reder.
Board President Colette Dow said the need for a bond became apparent after the district evaluated the condition of its facilities, something that is done every five years with the architects.
“Then we came across a whole bunch of other things that needed to be done and so it kind of rolled into the idea of another bond,” Dow said.
Gregory O’Connor, a BBS architect, said there are a variety of issues with code compliance that need to be updated as well as items such as roof repairs, window replacement, paving and drainage scattered throughout the district along with mechanical and plumbing work.
Some of the larger projects that would be under consideration is creating suitable space for modern STEM and STEAM instruction at the middle school and high school and reconstructing classrooms at two of the district’s oldest buildings, the original 1922 wing at Bedford Hills Elementary School and Mount Kisco Elementary School, which was built in the 1930s.
There is the possibility of extensive improvement to the high school sports facilities, including improvements to the baseball varsity field and increasing the number of artificial turf fields to increase the amount of time the surfaces can be used.
Other big-ticket items that could be under consideration at the high school would be library reconstruction, replacement of both the boys’ and girls’ locker rooms, cafeteria reconstruction and a partial renovation of the kitchen.
“A lot of this is health, safety, wellness, a lot if it is mechanical items for proper ventilation, but then you also have items like the fields that might not absolutely need to be done but there is a need for it,” O’Connor said.
Board member John Boucher said the district’s financial consultants have looked at two potential cost scenarios and the timing of a bond vote. Capital Markets Advisors outlined bonds for $35 million and $55 million.
“Our needs have increased since we’ve had the discussion, so we’ll have further discussions with Capital Markets on the levels of funding necessary,” Boucher said.
There is the possibility of an accelerated schedule that would enable the district to hold a bond vote in November, he said. If that isn’t feasible or if more time is needed, then the vote could be held next May at the same time as the annual budget vote and school board election.
Representatives from Capital Markets are expected to attend the board’s May 26 meeting to discuss matters related to the bond, Boucher said.
O’Connor said in order to make a November vote, it would be wise to gather public input over the next two months before summer begins, then resume in September. If approved by voters, BBS would then have to submit plans to the state Education Department (SED).
Once SED signs off on the project, which should take about three months to review by the agency, the bid documents can be prepared and the bidding process can begin sometime next year.
“This is a multiyear process,” O’Connor said. “We’re really at the starting line at this point.”