How were the capital project items identified?
A Bond Advisory Committee of 30 community members worked from August through November 2016 to assess the needs of the district and compile its suggestions for meeting those needs. The consensus of the Committee was that expansion and renovations are necessary and the need is immediate. Besides obvious physical necessities across the district, state education regulatory guidelines were considered throughout the process. Based on the Council’s guidance, the Board of Education drafted many iterations of the capital project, and in January approved the version being put up for vote on March 28th.
What is this capital project going to cost me?
$75 per $100,000 of assessed property value is the 24-year annual average cost to Port Chester taxpayers.
Why not just commit to larger class sizes?
Because smaller class sizes contribute to better academic achievement, test scores and increased graduation rates. Smaller class sizes improve teacher-to-student ratios, which allow teachers to spend more time with each student and tailor instruction for individual needs. Students are more engaged and attentive in smaller classes and have less disciplinary issues. Smaller class sizes can accommodate the needs of special education classes, as well as enrichment programs.
Wouldn’t split sessions solve the problem of classroom space?
Based on New York State Education Department requirements for grades 9 through 12, a sample high school split session schedule would look like this:
Session I: 7:00 am-12:30 pm or 7:00 - 1:00 pm with a 30 minute lunch
Session II: 1:00 pm – 6:30 pm or 1:30 - 7:30 pm with a 30 minute lunch
Split sessions would cause significant duplication in class offerings. We would also need to provide equal access to athletics, student clubs and organizations, marching band, theater, cheerleading, and all other extra-curricular activities to students in both sessions. The resulting major changes in working conditions would require negotiations with administration, teachers and support staff. A split session schedule would increase personnel costs, and its impact on working parents would be significant.
If classroom overcrowding is the issue, why build new athletics and arts facilities?
Athletics and the arts provide additional avenues for students to gain college acceptances and scholarships. Our high school gymnasium also includes teaching stations that are at maximum student capacity and overbooked for the number of instructional periods needed. It does not meet National Federation of State High School Association standards or provide adequate seating. We currently rent from Purchase College for games. The proposed new gym would eliminate the substantial cost of rent, provide the needed educational space and make us eligible to host tournament and championship games.
Our grass football field is overused and degrades seasonally, which limits its availability for much of the school year. This has kept us from offering a comprehensive athletic program. A synthetic turf field would not only allow us to expand our athletic offerings, but would cost far less to maintain annually.
Our musical ensembles currently rehearse on the auditorium stage, which interferes with other academic scheduling. Our band director utilizes a closet as an office to help maximize available space for students. The new band room will provide dedicated storage and seating for more than 120 musicians; the choral room will provide a long needed dedicated space for our vocalists. These moves will free up the auditorium for additional educational programming, including dance and theatre classes.
Why not include funds in the annual budget year to year to complete this work?
Interest rates are currently at historic lows, which means that now is a fiscally responsible time to borrow. Additionally, the magnitude of the capital project could not be funded in one annual budget cycle – even for the improvements to just one school – so dividing the project up over multiple cycles would take a considerable amount of time and additional expense.
How much state aid is available for the capital project?
66% New York State reimbursement on allowable expenses is available for this project.
Will the whole community share the benefits as well as the cost?
Yes. The new and improved educational, recreational and athletic spaces will be available to community members, including civic organizations, arts groups, athletic teams and others.
What is Port Chester’s Plan B if the voters do not approve the capital project?
The school board will still have the responsibility to immediately address the need for increased instructional spaces at Port Chester High School. It is likely that the use of temporary classrooms would need to be pursued.