Vote on PYCSD improvements Dec. 8

Rob Maeske
The Chronicle-Express

$28.8 million capital project involves all three Penn Yan schools

The Penn Yan Central School District (PYCSD) recently held a series of virtual meetings leading up to a vote on the 2020 Capital Project set for Dec. 8. Three meetings were streamed on Facebook to give voters a chance to receive information on the proposed project and voice any questions or concerns they may have. Physical meetings were deemed too high risk, given the current state of COVID-19. The meetings are available for viewing on PYSCDs Facebook page or their website at www.pycsd.org.

Up for vote is a $28.8 million Capital Project that includes improvements and additions within all three of the Penn Yan schools. The timing of the project follows a strategy set forth by the District in 2014 that is aimed at undertaking capital projects regularly in order to maintain school facilities without letting problems build up and reducing large swings in school tax rates from year to year. The District’s strategy was created with input from the community, where voters preferred a more predictable tax schedule. The District’s last capital project was in 2017 which included turf and track replacements in the school athletic complex, the construction of the new transportation building, and general upgrades in the Elementary and Middle schools.

Discussing the timing of the project, PYCSD Superintendent Howard Dennis said, “We want to make sure that the facilities’ needs are met...and that we are dealing with those at the lowest cost factor that we can and catching those facility needs early to make sure there aren’t additional costs to deal with.”

Dennis made several points as to why now was the most opportune time to move forward with the project. Dennis illustrated that facility needs will continue to grow each year rather than diminish or disappear. Also, construction costs escalate each year. In addition, given the current state of the country, borrowing rates are low and bidding opportunities among construction firms are currently highly competitive. Finally, if the decision is made to wait and the same project or projects are pursued at a later time, the cost is almost always higher for the taxpayer. 

In terms of what items are included in the 2020 Capital Project, there are a variety of projects lined up for each of the schools that were outlined by architect Eric Tomosky of SEI Design Group, who has been working with the District in creating the plan for the project.

In the Elementary School, various classroom upgrades are planned with the major focus on the HVAC system as several classrooms are in need of more adequate ventilation and several rooms need an improved AC system. General site improvements in the plan include better access to the playground and improvements to paved areas, sidewalks and drainage. The District is also looking at creating a new health clinic for the Elementary.

In the Middle School, HVAC improvements are also needed including switching the school’s system over from steam to hot water. According to Tomosky, the change would greatly save the District money and energy in the long run. Improved air conditioning is also needed in the upper levels of the building. The project also includes upgrades aimed at making the science rooms state-of-the-art. Exterior improvements at the Middle School will include maintenance and replacement of fencing and sidewalks and a major upgrade to the Main St. dropoff point.

The High School will require less work than the other two, with projects to include adding card readers to exterior entrances, replacing the folding partition in the gym, adding toilet rooms to the upper level of the school and minor upgrades to some HVAC and lighting systems. The biggest project at the Academy would be an addition built on to the existing fitness center to increase space required for training.

 A significantly smaller part of the project is the replacement of several windows in the maintenance building.

 In total, the project’s budget is $28,884,300. The highest percentage of the work will be at the Elementary School, then the Middle School, with the largest costs coming from the HVAC work. Broken down by building, the Elementary will take up $12.5 million of the budget, the Middle School will take $11.1 million, the Academy will take $5.2 million and the maintenance building will take $12,000. Work on the approved Capital Project would commence in Summer 2022.

 The public vote will be held Tuesday, Dec. 8 from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the Penn Yan Academy gym. A snow date has been set aside for the following week, Sunday, Dec. 15 from 12–8 p.m. Guidelines set by the CDC will be followed including required masking, strict sanitizing practices by poll workers, and temperature checks at the door.

Additional videos and information on the project can be found at the PYCSD website. Howard Dennis also encouraged the public to email questions or concerns to him directly at Hdennis@pycsd.org or to call the District Office at 315-536-3371.