Benante says focus on ‘needs instead of wants’
Asafer campus. More functional, non-smelly high school classrooms. A place for high schoolers to eat lunch. Upgraded HVAC for the main building. And more teacher bathrooms.
Those are among the critical campus needs to be addressed by the $35.7 million first phase of the recently adopted Haldane Campus Master Plan, according to district leaders.
The three-phase plan, as currently proposed, would cost $108 million and take 15 years to complete. To pay for it, Haldane recently announced it would need to raise taxes by 10.5 percent, a move that would have to be approved by district voters.
The plan includes a long list of high-profile projects, including a new auditorium, an additional gymnasium, additional tennis courts and a new open air “out-i-torium” on the school’s central lawn.
But Phase 1, as it’s currently configured, is loaded with more functional upgrades — “needs instead of wants,” said Philip Benante, the district superintendent.
“It’s really about addressing the most critical needs on campus having to do with space and safety and creating appropriate classrooms for kids and teachers,” added Peggy Clements, president of Haldane’s school board.
Earlier this month (Nov. 13), the district held a community forum to hear public input as it works to “finalize the exact components” in Phase 1 to be presented for a vote, which would likely be next fall, Benante said.
The initial phase has 45 separate projects, including new classrooms, improved access for people with disabilities and upgraded clocks and fire alarms. Here are some of Phase 1’s major projects:
New high school wing($16.4 million)
The costliest item would be a 17,300-square-foot addition to the east end of the high school. The addition will have four classrooms to “ensure that our kids and staff have a quality educational experience,” Benante said.
Currently, many high school students are taking classes in the Mabel Merritt Building, which was originally designed for offices. The building’s four makeshift classrooms are either oddly configured or too small, Benante said, adding that the building also has security challenges.
One classroom has a support pillar in the center blocking views. Students also complain about the building’s smell, said Benante.
The new wing will also provide a Student Center where high schoolers can eat lunch. While there is a lunchroom in the main building, it’s too small and requires an outdoor, cross-campus walk. As a result, high school students typically sprawl around the hallways, classrooms or outside at lunchtime.
The addition will also include office space and a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics) lab.
Main building ($7.1 million)
The plan calls for replacing the HVAC equipment and adding air conditioning. But several community members at the district’s forum on Nov. 13, as well as the school board’s meeting the following day, questioned whether the project included clean-energy options. Benante said the district and its architect are reviewing this part of the project.
Safer traffic flows ($2.2 million)
The plan aims to improve pedestrian safety, said Benante. “We have an unhealthy mix of car, bus and pedestrian traffic in the current design,” he said. “The updated design will better separate vehicular traffic from pedestrian traffic on campus. It also includes additional sidewalks and more clearly designated crosswalks to improve staff, student and visitor safety.”
Secure entry vestibules ($454,000)
In light of concerns about campus violence, it’s too easy for strangers and guests to enter the school buildings, Benante said, noting that “if someone holds open a door, it’s easy to get in.” Phase 1 addresses that with secure entry vestibules for both major buildings.
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