NISKAYUNA: School overhaul gains steam

The extensive renovation of Niskayuna High School is expected to pick up speed this week with the expected Wednesday, July 25, school board approval of $23 million in contracts covering much of the work.

The rare summertime meeting takes place as the district pushes to get contracts awarded and work under way before students return to classrooms in early September.

We ran into some delays waiting for the state education department to sign-off on this part of the project, so rather than wait for the board meeting that's scheduled for Aug. 20, it was decided to hold a special meeting this week and bring these contracts to the board for their approval, said the district's Assistant Superintendent for Business Matthew Bourgeois.

"We don't really expect any problems," Bourgeois said the day before the board meeting. "When the bids were opened last week, we were pleasantly surprised with the numbers that were submitted, and they actually came in a little lower than we expected. That will make it possible for us to include some additional work that we were not certain would be affordable under the budget we have."

Changes in the high school's parking lot layout and improvements to the irrigation system top the list of extras Niskayuna will now include in the project, said Bourgeois.

The first phase of Niskayuna's massive $94.5 million school renovation project got off the ground last month when the school board awarded bids for work on three elementary schools and Van Antwerp Middle School. Combined with the contracts being awarded for the high school, the district will have committed roughly half the funds available as a result of district voters approving the project back in Jan. 24, 2006. The rest of the project will be contracted before the end of the year.

In the 18 months since the public went to the polls, school board members have stressed the importance of keeping the project on track for its scheduled completion in 2010. Last year, then school board president Barbara Mauro made support for the project the centerpiece of her successful campaign for reelection, and this year both incumbents, David Hudson and Jeanne Sosnow, followed suit. Board members elected this spring, Debbie Gordon and Deb Oriola, also lined up in support of the renovation work.

"I am strongly committed to making this project work for the district as a whole," Oriola said shortly after winning her seat. "But I want to get up to speed on the details before offering any specific comments and that may take a few months." ""

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