OESJ looks to start capital project

Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Central School District Interim Superintendent Joseph Natale presented the school district’s proposed $9.4 million capital project plan during an informational session held at the elementary school on Wednesday. (The Leader-Herald/Briana O’Hara)

ST. JOHNSVILLE — The Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville Central School District is looking to start a proposed $9.4 million capital project following the completion of its current $24 million capital project.

The school district held two informational sessions Wednesday night to discuss its proposed plans and to allow community members to ask any questions. Voting for the project will take place on Feb. 4, and if passed, the district anticipates a construction start date in 2021.

Interim Superintendent Joseph Natale said to cover costs of the $9.4 million project, the school district is taking advantage of the 98 percent reimbursement provided by the merger incentive state aid from the creation of OESJ in December 2012. Two percent will come from the capital reserve, therefore, it will not have an impact on taxpayers. However, that merger aid expires in 2023.

“This is our last shot, our last chance, if we do it now, no cost will reflect on your school tax bill,” Natale said. “We’ll put these buildings in tip top shape.”

Work to be done will address three different categories including health, safety and security; improved learning environments; and updating infrastructure.

Under health, safety and security, upgrades will be made to the pre-existing fire alarms, a new PA system at the high school will be installed, classroom and entrance door replacements will be made in which in order to enter the building or classrooms cards will have to be swiped, there will be upgrades made to the drinking water system at the elementary school, roof vents and blowers will be replaced, new bus lifts and parking lot lights added.

To improve the learning environment, exterior windows will be replaced, lighting will be enhanced and energy efficient, ceiling tiles will be replaced, upgrades will be made to the interior and exterior finishes and replacing the gym sound system at the elementary school.

To update infrastructure, roof work will be done, boilers at the high school will be replaced, internal water and sewer lines will be worked on, instructional technology operations and more site work to be completed including re-paving.

The school district is in the midst of completing its $24 million capital project which has included several additions and updates made to both the Jr./Sr. High School and the Elementary School. The project is expected to be completed in the spring.

Natale said the costs of the current capital project were also generated from merger aid, so the district was reimbursed 98 percent of the cost leaving 2 percent to be taken from the capital reserve share, costing taxpayers nothing.

He said the district decided not to include the proposed $9.4 million project with the existing $24 million project because the state had reached the maximum 98 percent and did not want to surpass that or there would have been an impact on taxpayers.

“This district, this board of education did not want to relay the cost on to local taxpayers in this new merged district. Their goal was to make this a beautiful district for community, students and staff,” Natale said.

The project has included adding an elementary school auditorium, expanding the elementary school cafeteria, new agriculture classroom at the high school, new career and technology classroom added to the high school, safety and security upgrades, surveillance cameras added and a generator is being installed at the high school.

Other work done includes alterations and renovations to the Jr./Sr. high school science classrooms and labs, the elementary library has been renovated, guidance suite at the high school was relocated, the nurses office in the high school was relocated, high school fitness center is being redone, the district offices were relocated, various classrooms updated, roof work was done, elementary boilers were replaced and various site work is continuing to be completed.

Construction of the current capital project is expected to be completed in the spring. If the Proposed capital project is passed on Feb. 4, construction for that will start in 2021 with the anticipated completion date of 2023.

By Josh Bovee

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