Residents to vote on building upgrade

The fate of an upgrade to the Ballston Spa School District's middle school, four years in the making, will be decided by district residents on Thursday, Dec. 11.

The district says the school is chronically overcrowded, making the task of education difficult. Residents will have to decide whether they want a 55-cent tax hike come 2012, when the bonds for the project would be issued, to cover the $56.1 million upgrade.

Built in 1957, the middle school was designed to educate 800 pupils. Today, 1,050 students occupy that space, necessitating that teachers share classroom spaces and cart their materials from room to room. Up to four gym classes share a gym, especially in the winter, and multiple special education classes share a single room.

Under the renovation plan, overcrowding will be remedied by a 70,000-square-foot addition at the front of the middle school, allowing the three grades to be organized into houses. More than 15 classrooms will be added, along with a new multipurpose space with seating for 450. In the rear of the building, new locker room facilities will be added.

"The hardest part of the whole things is the outdated spaces," said Ballston Spa Superintendent Joseph Dragone, adding that many offerings like band or art classes don't have designated spaces. "The issues are programmatic."

In addition to expanding space, the aging infrastructure will be upgraded with energy efficiency in mind. An HVAC system will work with new windows, doors and insulation to cut energy costs significantly. The electrical systems will receive upgrades, as will the plumbing.

Athletic fields will be relocated to the south side of the school and along Ballston Avenue, and parking to the north will be expanded.

The high school will see some upgrades as well, including new classroom space and air conditioning in the gymnasium. The high school is newer than the middle school, having been constructed in 1998.

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