A rendering depicts proposed new projects for Haldane. Courtesy of CSArch
A rendering depicts proposed new projects for Haldane. (Courtesy of CSArch)

Removes HVAC to reduce proposed spending by $6.4M

The Haldane superintendent this week suggested reducing the scope of the first phase of a proposed building project by $6.4 million, to $29.3 million.

The revised project, if approved by voters, would result in an 8.22 percent tax increase over three years, down from 10.5 percent, Superintendent Philip Benante told the school board on Tuesday (Dec. 19).

Adopted in October, the district’s three-phase master plan includes $108 million in capital improvements over 15 years and is designed to bring its facilities in line with districts that are comparable in quality and size. 

According to CSArch, the Newburgh architecture firm that drafted the plan, Haldane’s facilities are “undersized,” with 148 square feet per student, compared with 205 square feet in similar area schools. After completion of the entire plan, the district would have 208 square feet per student, according to CSArch.

Benante said the change to the first-phase proposal was a response to feedback from residents that the plan was too expensive and didn’t include a more carbon-neutral HVAC system. The lower cost was a result of removing a proposal to replace the system in the district’s main building. 

Benante said that while carbon-neutral options would likely be more expensive, the district wants to study the cost when it includes energy savings.  He also said the district was mindful of concerns about contributing to global warming. 

Heidi Wendel, a Nelsonville resident who was among the community members who spoke out against the proposed HVAC system, said she was pleased that the district was not immediately “going ahead with a dinosaur fossil-fuel system.”  Wendel, who volunteers with the Habitat Revival Club at Haldane, said she hoped that the proposed upgrades would include preparations for a fossil-fuel-free system, including proper weatherization and insulation.

Other proposals in the first phase of the long-term capital plan include a new administration wing at the high school that would have a student center with meal space, a science and tech lab and four classrooms to replace classrooms at the “ill-suited” Mabel Merritt administration building, Benante said. Combined with a small addition to create a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics) innovation lab in the main building, it would amount to an increase of 18,946 square feet.

The first phase also would include extensive infrastructure and safety projects, including secure vestibules for the classroom buildings, roof-leak repairs, electrical system improvements, traffic circulation upgrades, faculty bathrooms, upgraded fire alarms, improved Americans with Disabilities Act compliance and the replacement of public-address systems, clocks and security cameras.


There are 41 components in the first phase of Haldane’s capital improvements proposal. The campus includes a main building, which houses the elementary and middle schools, the old and new gyms and the cafeteria; the high school; and the Mabel Merritt administration building. The descriptions below from a presentation by the superintendent at the school board’s Tuesday (Dec. 19) meeting.

Safety ($473,124)

Secure Vestibules at High School and Main Building Entrances
Establishes visitor control by allowing greeter to safely welcome guests and verify identity and purpose prior to granting building access

Campus-wide Accessibility Improvements
The main building is not ADA-compliant and lacks accessibility at the main entrance, lower level and restrooms.

Infrastructure ($5,150,919)

Electrical Improvements
Replace outdated panel boards in main building; provide electric service to softball field on Route 9D for future scoreboard use; install partial generator in main building

Campus-wide Restroom Upgrades
Separates student and staff use (regulation); repairs and renovations, including ADA accessibility

Main Building & High School Repairs
Address leaking roof, cracked masonry, exterior door issues, required boiler room walls; replace domestic water heater in high school

Fire Alarm & Carbon Monoxide Upgrades
Replaces outdated systems

Security Camera System, VOIP & Intercom System
Replace limited and low-quality camera system; replace outdated PA systems and connect all buildings

High School Additions ($20,559,488)

Four Additional Classrooms
Replace classrooms in the Merritt building, which are not ADA-compliant and have damaged floors, dated restrooms and undersized and ineffective classroom space

Student Center
Provide a dedicated space for students to eat lunch, collaborate, and interact

Create a facility for hands-on, experiential learning; modern-day “shop” class

Student Support Offices
Centralize guidance and counseling support for post-grad planning and student wellness; allow for confidential support when needed

OT/PT/RN Office Enhancements
Improve functionality and confidentiality of spaces for student services, including occupational and physical therapy (some services currently occur in hallways), testing, nursing care and staff collaboration

Outdoor Pavilions (3)
Creates multipurpose outdoor spaces to be used as classrooms, club meeting spaces, high school lunch and student social gatherings

Site Work ($3,126,006)

Vehicle & Pedestrian Traffic Redesign
New bus drop-off zones at main building and high school; new roundabout to connect vehicular access between upper and lower campus; paving and sidewalk repair. The changes would separate bus, car and pedestrian traffic for safety, improves emergency vehicle access to all buildings and increase car and bus parking capacity.

If the board decides to go ahead, a referendum on whether to borrow the money to finance the first phase would likely take place next fall. Benante said he plans to ask the board in January to approve the plan.

The upgrades are critical, said Peggy Clement, the board president. “These are absolutely the things that the district needs.”

At the meeting, Benante asked the board for input into whether to further pare down the first phase by eliminating three proposed outdoor pavilions that he called “opportunities” rather than needs. That would reduce costs by about $1 million.

The second and third phases of the plan would add 29,000 square feet of indoor space and include a gymnasium and 350-seat auditorium at the high school, and a fitness and wellness center in the building that houses the elementary and middle schools. 

Benante has said that the later phases could be timed for implementation as the first phase is being completed, minimizing further tax increases.

Behind The Story

Type: News

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

Joey Asher is a freelance writer and former reporter for The Journal News.

Join the Conversation


  1. It’s great to see the district considering its options for sustainable HVAC systems. As I have posted earlier, the plausibility of a heat-pump (geothermal) system is contingent on the substrate in which holes must be drilled for pipe loops. A few days worth of boring studies will quickly tell us what the school’s geoprofile is. If the substrate is bedrock — like most of the Valley — drilling will drive costs of that system up exponentially, making it a fiscally irresponsible idea. It’s peculiar to read about that proposition when the District is looking for ways to value-engineer the proposed costs.

  2. Further to this, an important clarification should be requested from above and audio file link: If NYS Code 8 CRR-NY requires 35 SF/student, that’s 350 SF classroom/10 kids ( 20 x 18), thus 208 SF/student would be 2,080 SF, or a classroom bigger than 50 ft. x 40 ft for the same 10 kids: 6X/size of required area. Am I missing something here?

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