The Kingston City School District (KCSD) is reassessing its facilities needs after learning that the cost of a five-year capital plan has risen from an estimated $107.1 million in 2020 to around $162.1 million today.
The KCSD Board of Education heard a presentation earlier this month, led by Armand Quadrini, managing principal of KSQ Design, the New York City and Tulsa, Oklahoma-based architecture firm that’s had a decades-long relationship with the district. Much of those plans were centered on air-conditioning and other ventilation upgrades, and Quadrini explained that due to a variety of reasons, the estimates in the original five-year plan had risen by around $55 million once costs were adjusted to reflect 2023 market conditions.
“A lot of the cost increases occurred in the mechanical and electrical areas,” Quadrini said. “It’s been super difficult to get air handling units and equipment associated with mechanical systems. Not only is the pricing going up but it takes a long time to get that equipment, so that expanded construction schedules.”
The plans cover both of the district’s middle schools and all seven of its elementary schools, but does not include Kingston High School, or the former Meagher and Anna Devine elementary schools. Kingston High underwent a recently completed comprehensive renovation that came in around $16.5 million under its $137.5 million budget. Meagher was also thoroughly spruced up recently when it was converted into a pre-kindergarten hub and district headquarters, and Anna Devine is currently being leased to BOCES for use in its Center for Innovative Teaching and Learning program for special education students.
Even just the air-conditioning and ventilation costs have risen substantially, costing an estimated $45.3 million in 2021 and roughly $64.4 million in 2023.
Quadrini suggested that by focusing primarily on the HVAC projects in each of the schools, with additional budgeting for the facilities most in need of work, a $75.4 million project might be the best option at this time.
“We will replace critical ventilation items, and there are boilers that require replacement because they’ve aged out over time,” Quadrini said. Boilers were included in the HVAC line, while other repairs were included in an allowance for all but M. Clifford Miller Middle School and Robert Graves Elementary. The remaining elementary schools would each receive a $1 million allowance for other work, while J. Watson Bailey, identified as most in need of work, would receive $5 million.
“Bailey has had Band-Aids put on it for years,” said School Board Vice-President Herb Lamb. “It’s older than Miller, it’s in worse shape than Miller was, and to me that one needs to be done fully…I hear parents saying this building is in terrible condition, and I think it’s one of our weakest buildings as far as the physical structure.”
In the original five-year plan, both of the middle schools and all seven elementary schools were earmarked for work.
M. Clifford Miller Middle School: $13.7 million for wood floor reinforcing, elevator renovation, exterior rescue ladders, science lab improvements and fixing water leak over the auditorium stage.
J. Watson Bailey Middle School: $29.4 million to add 80 parking spaces, new water services, concrete curb replacement, replacing windows and roofing, main office renovations, repair of a gym divider roof beam, refurbishing the kitchen loading dock and a renovation of the auditorium.
Chambers Elementary School: $6 million to add 30 parking spaces, repair walkways, exterior playground and drainage improvements, replace exterior kindergarten doors, undergo restroom upgrades, replace the kitchen grease interceptor, add water bottle fill stations, add a portable generator hook-up and upgrade the fire alarm system.
Crosby Elementary School: $8.3 million for 33 additional parking spaces, exterior walkway repair, playground relocation, installing window shades, replacing the metal ceiling in the kitchen, renovating the cafeteria and upgrading the fire protection system.
Myer Elementary School: $9.7 million for 14 new parking spaces, sewer system replacement, exterior stair replacement, resurfacing the playground, replacing termite-damaged floors, replacing 62-year-old windows and refurbishing interior stairs and railings.
George Washington Elementary School: $13.4 million for green upgrades to the outdoor and community activity areas, parking lot repaving, exterior lighting, facade brick repointing, adding an elevator, installing rescue windows and auditorium renovation.
Harry L. Edson Elementary School: $10.2 million for sidewalk and access improvements, repaving the path to the lower recreation field, adding windows, restroom renovations, fire protection system upgrades, replacing kitchen waste piping, adding water bottle fill stations, installing a portable generator hook up and fire alarm system upgrades.
John F. Kennedy Elementary School: $5.1 million for interior door replacements, restroom renovation, replacing water lines, refurbishing kitchen waste piping, adding water bottle filling stations, fire alarm upgrades and public address system upgrades.
Graves Elementary School: $11.3 million to create a new parent pickup area and new bus area, replace soccer field drains, add a canopy to a portable building, replace windows, restroom renovations and replace wood doors and frames.
During his presentation last week, Quadrini did not elaborate on how the schools’ allowances would be spent, but their HVAC budgets were identified, with Miller receiving $9.9 million, Bailey $13.8 million, Chambers $5 million, Crosby $5.8 million, Myer $5.6 million, George Washington $5.5 million, Edson $6.4 million, J.F.K. $3.9 million, and Graves $8.5 million.
KCSD Superintendent Paul Padalino said that air-conditioning and ventilation were the top issues mentioned by the public when the district sought feedback for spending federal COVID relief funding.
“Our community has spoken as far as being concerned about the heating and ventilation and air conditioning,” Padalino said. “From a health standpoint, especially coming through the recent pandemic, knowing that we have adequate and modern HVAC systems will create a much safer environment and healthier environment in our schools.”
The superintendent also alluded to climate change as making HVAC upgrades more important than they might have been in the past.
“For reasons that I’m not going to debate with anyone, we do seem to be warmer longer and starting to get warmer earlier in upstate New York than we used to, he said. “All the research tells us that once a classroom gets over 80 degrees, learning goes to zero. We have buildings where the classrooms get over 80 degrees, and they do it in April and they do it in October. It’s no longer just 80 degrees here in June, July and August.”
Padalino added that because of the district’s current state aid reimbursement figures, the public’s portion of the proposed work would come in at around 24 percent.
“While we’re looking at those numbers and ($75) million or whatever looks like it’s huge, 24 cents on the dollar of that comes from a local taxpayer, and 76 cents on the dollar comes from our state building aid. If I told you you could do that kind of renovation of your home and only pay 24 percent on it you would do it immediately.”
The superintendent also said that the district could tap into its roughly $10 million capital reserve to help cover the costs of the project.