GUFS facilities receive a ‘satisfactory’ rating

By Michael Mell

At its Jan. 5 meeting, the Garrison Union Free School District board listened to a facilities report that described ongoing projects, including the new storage shed, and offered no surprises.

The report, presented by Superintendent Gloria Colucci and Facilities Director Dick Timmons, began with a summary of items from the 2006 inspection, which identified four primary areas: instructional spaces, meeting and office spaces, outdoor spaces and facilities. According to the report:

  • Space limitations continue to be problematic for the computer lab, which lacks office space and the ability to accommodate more than 22 students.
  • The cafeteria also suffers from a lack of space forcing lunch-time into “20-minute shifts.”
  •  Elementary school corridors are only 8 feet wide and further narrowed by clothing cubbyholes.
  • K-2 teachers often use the halls for additional instruction space.

The report also identifies other problems. Grade 1-4 classrooms, built in 1954, as “too small” and notes that lack of storage space in the music and art classrooms limits space available for students. Windows, also of 1954 vintage, are drafty and not energy efficient, and administrative areas all suffer from a lack of meeting-room space, storage and generally cramped quarters.  Colucci noted that this is not only an issue for administrative staff, but, in the case of the psychologist’s office, limits the number of students and activities that can be accommodated. The facilities director’s office/workshop is small, lacks storage and sufficient space for projects. Likewise, the superintendent’s office has no waiting area and only a small meeting space.

The report also pointed out that bathrooms in the elementary and middle-school wings have some aging fixtures, but meet code and are deemed “sufficient for students.” Bathrooms in the elementary wing, however, are not handicapped accessible.

The report likewise explained that space limitations afflict outdoor areas at the school:

  • The “back” playing area is small and can only accommodate two classes at a time. Maintaining the grass in this heavily used area is problematic.
  • The relocation of the softball diamond has created 12 additional parking spaces, but the athletic field still suffers from drainage problems, especially at the foot of the steps from St. Philip’s Church.
  • Turf maintenance is also a problem and “crowning,” a necessary maintenance procedure, would take the field out of service for a year.

In 2007, $658,720 was approved for needed repairs identified in the 2006 report. Of that amount, $94,535 was used for roof repairs and reimbursement is expected from New York State Excel Aid (although no monies have been received yet). The balance of $564,185 was used to create a capital fund. Since creation of the fund, roof repairs, paving of the upper parking area and driveway, and 1954 window replacements have been completed. Remaining are the storage shed, which is awaiting N.Y. State Department of Education (NYSED) approval of the building plans; replacement of windows from 1908, replacement of the cafeteria floor, and an upgrade to bathroom sinks and toilets.

Colucci and Timmons described capital fund project priorities for the near future. At the top of the list is the new storage shed, athletic field drainage and replacement of the older of the school’s two boilers, which has been in use for 30 years. Other projects include improved lighting for the elementary wing (under an Energy Performance Contract with Central Hudson,) replacement of library doors, replacement of water heaters, public address system upgrades, replacement of windows (installed in 1908,), new wood chips under the swings (in the playground), and carpet replacement in the main-level corridor. The project list also includes addition of 1,200 square feet to the school building to address space problems, although where this additional square footage would be added was not discussed.

Financing of this long list concerned board members, when the slightly more than $305,000 price tag was revealed. Colucci assured the board that “there is enough money [in the capital fund] to cover projects currently planned.” She added that smaller projects that come up could be paid with money from the general fund. Larger projects, such as crowning the athletic field, would require the district to incur additional debt, with its attendant service costs.

In 2000, NYSED mandated that all schools undergo a complete inspection by a licensed architect or engineer every five years. Results are submitted to NYSED and the school board and include any recommendations for improvement. Within the five-year period, annual visual inspections are required. NYSED offers five facilities ratings: Excellent — for new or like-new; Satisfactory — functioning reliably; Unsatisfactory – unreliable, useful life exceeded; Non-functioning – non-functioning, with a health/safety issue; and Critical failure – cited area should not be occupied. The Garrison school received a “satisfactory” in all areas.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Mell is a freelance journalist and former editor at The Current.