Haldane Ponders Next Big Project

The Haldane campus, seen from space: The high school is at top center, and the elementary and middle schools at bottom center. Google Earth

The Haldane campus, seen from space: The high school is at top center, and the elementary and middle schools at bottom center. (Photo via Google Earth)

Board hears ideas for campus master plan

What capital improvements does Haldane need to improve the student experience and be competitive with nearby schools? That was the question being asked at the Tuesday (Sept. 20) meeting of the school board.

For example, should the district build a performing arts auditorium? Haldane is one of the few schools in the area without a dedicated space, the board was told by representatives from CSArch, a Newburgh architecture firm it hired to prepare a campus master plan. 

Or should it build a center with a cafeteria and space for students to socialize and collaborate?

Or how about faculty bathrooms?

And where can they put these buildings without conflict with residents whose homes border the Cold Spring campus?

The master plan will not be complete until December or January and no spending estimates have been prepared, according to CSArch. The district is a long way from committing to anything, said Superintendent Philip Benante, but the process, which began in June, has highlighted campus needs. 

Wish List

Here are the capital-improvement priorities identified so far by consultants preparing a master campus plan for the Haldane school district:

  • Auditorium for performing arts
  • Space for student intervention services
  • Student innovation / collaboration space 
  • Student cafeteria / social gathering space
  • Staff support space 
  • Faculty bathrooms 
  • Communication-related concerns
  • Accessibility
  • Outdoor education integration
  • Site circulation
  • Additional gym space 
  • Improved athletic facilities / wellness center
  • Dedicated high school facilities
  • Deficiencies with existing cafeteria
  • Improvements to support visual arts
  • Improvements to support science/math
  • Safety and security improvements

“The space that we have available to our kids is significantly less than that available to other kids in other schools,” Benante said. “It’s important that we examine that.”

Indeed, the presentation, delivered by Tom Ritzenthaler and Melissa Renkawitz of CSArch, drew a contrast between Haldane’s facilities and those at 11 nearby districts, including Millbrook, Spackenkill, Rhinebeck and Putnam Valley.

As an example, they said, Haldane ranked last in square feet per student with 148, compared to an average of 205 at the other campuses. And Haldane was the only campus without an auditorium. (The district uses a gymnasium stage for performances, setting up folding chairs for spectators.)

“This constrained space asks a lot of our staff,” said Peggy Clements, the board vice president.

As part of the presentation, Ritzenthaler and Renkawitz identified sites on campus for buildings as well as design ideas for an auditorium, gym and student center. 

When asked whether the board would likely move forward with major capital improvements, Sean McNall, its president, was cautious. “Do we need to do a major capital improvement?” he said. “It’s a possibility to be considered. But I don’t know the time frame.”

2 thoughts on “Haldane Ponders Next Big Project

  1. Haldane Superintendent Philip Benante says that “the space we have available to our students is significantly less than that available to other kids in other schools.”

    The district’s consultants compared Haldane’s facilities to those at nearby districts, including Spackenkill, my alma mater. Haldane has 148 square feet per student, versus an average of 205 in the other districts.

    Perhaps one reason for that disparity is that the student populations in other districts have declined. Spackenkill High School was constructed to accommodate 800 students. At its peak in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the population exceeded that number. My class had more than 220 members. Since that time, the population has fallen to about 530. As the student population declined, the space per student increased.
    I suggest that Haldane taxpayers carefully examine the rationale for plans to expand the school buildings. Is it driven by the needs of the students or the consultant’s quest for billable hours?

  2. As the parent of a Haldane High School senior who grew up in Philipstown and has attended Haldane schools her entire life, I am certainly well aware that the students and staff need more accommodating space. For example, there is no space in the high school for students to eat lunch or gather. Some classes are held in an annex that is difficult to navigate. There is no auditorium on campus; folding chairs in a gym for school assembly, theater and music performances and community events. I have visited high school campuses in Putnam, Westchester, New Jersey, Connecticut and attended public school in New York City. I can assure you that although my daughter will be graduating, other students will need better space that meets their needs and the Haldane School District will need better space to attract the best faculty, administrators and coaches for our children. In a community like ours, we can hope for nothing less.