Kingston City School District officials said this week the $137.5 million Kingston High School Second Century Capital Plan will have to go five years deeper into the century in order to get the most out of the state aid funding the bulk of the project. The scope of the project has also been reduced, said Superintendent Paul Padalino.
“We’ll be delivering pretty much the same project we thought we would,” said Padalino ahead of a presentation to the Board of Education on Wednesday, March 25. “We’ve reduced some of the square footage, but that was mostly around hallways, stairways, things like that, in trying to make sure we get the most aid out of the things we’re doing.”
The initial plan called for roughly 420,000 square feet of work; that number has been reduced to 360,000 square feet. Padalino said adjusting the timeline, which has been pushed back to 2023 from August 2018, was necessary to both complete the project and give the taxpayers what the district promised.
“I think there will be people who understand that we’re being fiscally responsible to make sure we maximize the aid, which to me, we promised the voters that they would only pay for a certain portion of this and that we could get 60 cents on the dollar in state aid, and we want to make sure we do that,” Padalino said. “I think there will be people who are pleased that we were taking that approach. But there’s also going to be people who aren’t happy because we’re taking a little longer than we thought we would.”
State aid angles
Padalino said that the changes in the timeline were the result of conversations with the State Education Department which couldn’t begin until the public approved the project back in 2013. Following the vote, the district worked with KSQ Architects and BBL Construction Services to prepare the project for State Ed, after which point the negotiations began.
“There are different things that yield more aid than others,” Padalino said. “We presented our plan based on what we thought was the aid ratios in our original five-year plan, and they go through our plan with a red pen and say, ‘No, this isn’t right,’” Padalino said. “And then we go back and forth and argue with them. We’ve been doing that for three months. And it got to the point where we understood where they were and we had to make a couple of choices: We could extend the time a little bit and maximize aid; we could move forward and not receive as much aid and do the building on the current timeline; or we could scrap and start again from design. The only one of those options that was palatable as far as we were concerned was extending it out a little bit … That’s part of a $130 million project that is being built on a postage stamp.”
According to Padalino, construction of new education-specific areas is still scheduled to be completed on the original timeline.
“The key point that I keep trying to bring home to people is the core academic wings, the bulk of this project will be done in that 2018 timeframe that we thought,” he said. “But some of the other things we had to push out a little bit.”
What’ll be delayed
The work inside the main building, which opened in 1915, has been pushed back, as has some of the renovation work in Kate Walton Field House, including the basketball court. The swimming pool area of the field house will still be done on the original schedule, Padalino added.
“The pool area is a priority,” Padalino said. “We’ll be doing that in the first couple of years because of the ADA compliance and the use of the pool by our community. We could have started with the field house, but we made the decision that the academic piece of this was the most important. We wanted to have that first.”
Demolition of the Whiston Building will also be delayed until 2021 according to the new timeline, and Padalino said it would be used up until it’s ready for razing.
The superintendent added that the anticipated completion of the entire project in the new timeline is an attainable goal given the funding changes; it’s also conceivable that the project could wrap up sooner than expected.
“At this point it’s appropriate for us to give our community the worst case scenario,” Padalino said. “I’d rather under-promise and over-deliver than over-promise and under-deliver. The bulk of the student-inhabited parts of this building will be complete on schedule.”
According to the new timeline, work set to begin this summer includes stormwater site work; the primary phase of work on Kate Walton Field House; and the beginning of construction of the new east wing, which is scheduled to be completed in late fall of 2016. Construction of the new west wing is slated to begin in the summer of 2016 and finish in late fall of 2017. Work in Salzmann will begin in spring and summer of 2017, according to the plan, and wrap up in the summer of 2018.
The secondary phase of the project, which primarily focuses on the main building of Kingston High, won’t get underway until 2020, and the renovations to the gymnasium in Kate Walton Field House aren’t due to begin until 2021.
Though the project may not be complete for up to eight years, signs of life should begin on campus within a month, Padalino said.
“We’ll start getting ready for the bidding process, and you’ll start to see movement on that campus the week of, I think, the 19th of April,” Padalino said. “Mostly this spring and summer you’ll see a lot of construction trucks arriving, construction trailers. You’ll see testing the soil and things like that. But you’re not going to see walls being built. The real construction will be next spring when we have the thaw.”