The Ulster BOCES P-Tech program has outgrown their space at the former Carnegie Library building on Broadway. It has moved to the SUNY Ulster satellite campus in the former Sophie Finn Elementary School a few hundred feet away.
BOCES superintendent Charles Khoury explained that with 51 students, including 36 from the Kingston school district and 15 traveling from other districts in Ulster and Dutchess counties, the program needed more space. The Hudson Valley Pathways Academy (P-Tech) will move into six technology-friendly classrooms at Sophie Finn. There were only four in the Carnegie Building. Khoury added that Internet speeds and available bandwidth would also improve with the move.
P-Tech, which gives students an opportunity to earn high school and college credits simultaneously, is for students who might have struggled to find their footing otherwise. “The genesis of this program is kids who were not traditionally college-bound and were probably problematic in terms of their eighth-grade participation both in attendance and academics,” said Khoury at a recent meeting of the Kingston school board. P-Tech boats an attendance rate of over 95 percent.
The P-Tech program initially came to the Carnegie Building on a trial agreement, with an $8433 lease through June 2013 to use the facility’s computer lab and dance studio. The arrangement came at a time when the district was having difficulty filling in the space.
District voters approved the $3.58-million renovation project for the long-dormant Carnegie Library in February 2009. The Center for Creative Education agreed to rent the building for use during after-school hours. The rent from the CCE combined with state and federal aid and private donations meant the project would have no local tax impact.
Widespread economic difficulties left both parties struggling to figure out a way to make the relationship work. “The original arrangement with CCE was made in a different time,” said superintendent Paul Padalino in 2013. “Times changed the circumstances in terms of CCE being able to pay the amount of rent that was originally discussed. It was based on old math. We weren’t interested in holding CCE responsible for renting a space and paying something they couldn’t afford and couldn’t sustain.”
Two years ago school officials negotiated a lease agreement with BOCES for a $98,473 lease which included full-time use. That lease expired in late October. While the district initially hoped to find a space for BOCES in Kingston High School, Padalino said that P-Tech simply grew faster than the district’s $137-million renovation plan.
“It’s one of those positive negatives,” Padalino said this week. “It’s positive the program is growing to the point where they no longer fit in Carnegie. Our initial plan was that P-Tech would stay there and grow into some of the new construction at the high school, some of the new rooms being created at Main.
“But obviously our construction schedules didn’t mesh with the expansion of P-Tech. Starting P-Tech, anytime you start something new you think, is this really going to last? We’re pleased that it has. Our timing was a little bit off and it grew a little faster than we expected it to.”
Padalino said he was pleased that BOCES chose to move close enough so that Kingston students interested in participating in P-Tech won’t have to travel further than they did when it was held at the Carnegie Building.
“It was really nice to be able to see them move right up the road a little bit, still on our campus at the SUNY Ulster site,” Padalino said. “We still consider that part of our campus, even though it’s not ours. But the kids are still able to access Kingston for gym class or nursing services. If our kids want to be in P-Tech, but they also want to play basketball, they can still do that. It’s one of the advantages that we have over some of my colleagues in surrounding districts. And it’s part of the reason I pushed for it to be on our campus.”
Padalino said various options for the Carnegie Building are being discussed with Kingston High principal Kirk Reinhardt. Padalino added that the space could be used temporarily during the ongoing construction at Kingston High.
“At this point in time, any kind of open swing space during the construction really isn’t a bad thing,” Padalino said. “Right now Mr. Reinhardt and his team are looking at putting some of our art electives back there. There’s an art room there and a computer lab in there, so I think his idea was to give them some flexibility to go down in those new spaces.
“I think he’ll play it by ear for now and see if there are any other needs. But again, it’s a release valve if we have noisy construction. We’ll kind of retreat, meet with Kirk Rhinehardt and his team, and there’s still that opportunity for that to be a center for afterschool things, which was the original intent prior to my arrival.
“We’re going to go to the drawing board to see what we can do with that space. But there’s no shortage of people who want to use that space. It’s not going to sit vacant.”