Just in time to start the new school year, the Roslyn Public Schools finished the first phase of construction projects to give the district a face-lift.
The work marks the completion of about one-third of a $40 million capital plan approved by the school district, which includes aesthetic upgrades to the schools’ interiors and improvements to infrastructure.
“It all came together,” said Kevin Carpenter, assistant to the superintendent for administration and special projects. “I don’t know how it did, but it was a lot of cooperation from everyone.”
East Hills School and Roslyn Middle School were the main focus of this year’s construction, he said. The work is most visible in the halls and classrooms of the schools, with new lighting fixtures, wall tiles and flooring designed by an architect for the district.
The community relations director, Barry Edelson, said, “We want kids to come in and see a facility that reflects the community.”
Some of the work is unseen, in the form of electrical upgrades, air conditioning, and a centralized control system for power and heating, necessary components for the safe and efficient operation of the buildings, Carpenter said. The wiring that was replaced at East Hills appeared to be original to the building, which was built in the 1950s, Edelson said.
As soon as the doors closed for summer break in June, work started at the schools to ensure they would meet the target date of Aug. 15, Carpenter said. School ended on a Friday, the teachers came in over the weekend to clear the classrooms, and work started that Monday, he said.
“It was a tremendous amount of moving parts,” Carpenter said. “It took a lot of coordination. The teachers were outstanding in terms of moving everything out.”
A few of the projects aren’t just cosmetic, but offer practical solutions for the buildings.
Outside the entrances to East Hills School overhangs were installed to shield parents and students from the elements. Edelson said sometimes when students were being checked into the building, they would be left standing in the rain.
New security bays at each school’s main entrance will create a designated space to check in anyone coming into the building, Carpenter said.
The school board vice president, Cliff Saffron, said the idea for district-wide renovations began over a decade ago, supported by him and President Meryl Waxman Ben-Levy.
“It’s a vision that began 11 years ago, and it’s so gratifying to see how plans come to fruition, all with a view towards improving the education and the environment for our children,” he said. “It’s also amazing to see the support of our community, who didn’t flinch at supporting a $40 million-plus capital improvement plan.”
Plans for the projects started coming together in 2012 with a committee made up of district officials and residents, Edelson said, which made recommendations as to what needed improving in the schools.
Over the course of a year, input from the committee was formed into a package of capital projects that was presented to the public through a referendum in 2013, he said.
“There was very strong support for the project, and it had been quite a while since we’d done any major work in the district,” Edelson said.
The last set of major renovations in the district was done in 2000.
By 2014, a $24.5 million bond was approved, and the rest of the funding came from reserve accounts, Edelson said. The assistant superintendent for business, Joseph Dragone, devised a financial plan that would have minimal impact on the taxpayers, Edelson said.
At the time when the bond was obtained, he said, interest rates were at a low 2 percent, which will save residents millions of dollars over the 15-year bond period.
The remaining work will take place over the next two summers, Edelson said. Next year’s projects will focus on the high school and Harbor Hill School.
Some projects will continue as planned while school is in session, he said. Work will go on at the East Hills School library and the new gymnasium at the high school, Edelson said.
“We’re still on track in terms of the scope of what we’re trying to do,” he said.