Superintendent determines best option for capital project relocation
During the Board of Education meeting on Monday, March 20, Superintendent of Schools Michelle Brantner explained her proposal for relocating students and staff during the upcoming capital improvement project scheduled to begin later this spring.
In early February, Mrs. Brantner laid out a timeline of meetings and communications that included the formation of a steering committee to look at possible options for the upcoming relocation. The work that has occurred over the past two months has led Brantner and the administrative team to a clear plan for relocation:
Fourth-grade classes move back to KCH
Fifth- and sixth-grade classes remain at DMS, with sixth-grade classes relocating within the building
Seventh- and eighth-grade classes move to the high school
Ninth-, 10th-, 11th- and 12th-grade classes move to DMS
Last year, the district was preparing to relocate students in ninth and 10th grades to DMS, but the plan was never finalized. In order to accommodate splitting the high school, students would need to shuttle between buildings throughout the day to access all of their classes. Adding extra time between class periods to accommodate the shuttling would delay dismissal and eliminate the possibility for an activity and extra help period after school. In addition, buses would not be able to make it back to the campus in time for the dismissal of students in grades K-6.
As a result, a second option was investigated and ultimately chosen as the most viable option over the 23-month period of construction.
Over the next few weeks, the administrative team will be busy finalizing details in preparation for moving at the end of June. Feb. 23, 2017
Community forum about capital project relocation set for March 8
District administrators are in the midst of finalizing plans for the relocation of students during the capital improvement project over the next two school years. Please join them for a community forum at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 8, in the Marcellus High School Auditorium, where they’ll discuss the status of relocation plans and answer questions from the audience.
We hope to see you there!
Feb. 16, 2017
Superintendent and BOE student representative tackle relocation questions
Madeline Mahoney, a Marcellus High School junior who also serves as student representative on the district Board of Education, recently sat down with Superintendent of Schools Michelle L. Brantner, to share some concerns her schoolmates have about the relocation that will be required for the upcoming capital project. Watch their exchange in the video below.
Jan. 26, 2017
Superintendents reviews current relocation options
During the Board of Education's regular meeting on Jan. 23, Superintendent of Schools Michelle Brantner reviewed the two options the district is now considering for the temporary relocation of students and staff during the capital project renovations at the high school in 2017-18 and 2018-19. She also presented a proposed timeline for discussing and deciding on a plan (see at bottom of page).
In the video below, Mrs. Brantner recaps the BOE presentation.
May 24, 2016
Capital project bids come in over budget, Board to discuss options Construction, relocation to be delayed until summer of 2017
Because the bids for construction work came in significantly higher than the money earmarked for it in the $14.8 million capital project referendum approved by voters last March, the Marcellus Board of Education now must review its options – all of which include pushing back the project at least one year.
Nearly every bid the district received for construction-related work – general contracting, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and site work – came in over the construction costs estimated by the architect, SEI Design Group.
Drawings and specifications for the renovation plans – which include overhauling academic spaces, corridors, offices, the main entrance and locker rooms in the high school, and some ventilation and security improvements at K.C. Heffernan Elementary and Driver Middle schools – were submitted to the New York State Education Department for review last fall. The district received SED approval in late March 2016, put out a request for bids in April and opened the bids on May 19. The first hammer swing was expected in late June.
“The combined cost of the low bids for each trade came in about 24 percent higher than we expected,” Interim Superintendent of Schools Judith C. Pastel said. “The district simply doesn’t have enough money to start and complete the project as currently configured, so we must postpone so the Board of Education can assess its options.”
The Board’s options include: 1) reducing the scope, or the breadth of work to be undertaken in the project; or 2) presenting another referendum to the community, asking for additional funding to support the project as planned. (By law, the district cannot spend more on the project than the total dollar amount approved by voters.)
Regardless of which path the Board takes, given the nature of the renovations, construction must begin in the summer months when the buildings are largely empty, hence, the one-year postponement. However, because roof work at KCH and the high school already was bid separately and a contract awarded, that work will continue as planned this summer.
Board members have scheduled a community meeting for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 31, in the DMS cafeteria, to discuss the status of the project and outline the district’s options. Students will not be relocating at this time as originally planned.
“The people of Marcellus entrust us not only with the education of their children but also the responsible stewardship of their tax dollars,” Dr. Pastel said. “We know that trust absolutely depends on transparency and open, two-way communication. So I hope residents will consider attending the meeting on May 31.” March 1, 2016
Superintendent and BOE discuss capital project relocation plan
In a special Feb. 29 Board of Education meeting attended by about 40 community members, Superintendent of Schools Judith C. Pastel outlined plans for relocating some students and staff during the district’s capital improvement project, set to start this summer.
The plan calls for grades 9 and 10 to move to Driver Middle School for the next two school years, while grade 4 relocates to K.C. Heffernan Elementary School. Grades 11 and 12 will remain at Marcellus High School; grades 5-8 will stay at DMS; and grades K-3 will remain at KCH. District administrative offices, currently housed at DMS, will temporarily move to another location on or close to campus. The plan calls for no “shoe-horning,” a.k.a. increased class sizes, or reduction in teaching staff.
Because the $14.85 million building project calls for the renovation of all instructional spaces at the 50-year-old high school, the building will only be able to fit two grade levels during the project’s three construction phases, Dr. Pastel explained.
Administrators initially thought there’d be enough room for three grades and researched the use of portable classrooms for the ninth grade. But the cost – an estimated $750,000 – was deemed too high. The less money the district spends on transition costs, the more it can funnel into state-of-the-art improvements at the high school, Dr. Pastel said.
“This is a cost-responsible approach,” she said.
The project includes a new science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) wing on the high school’s first floor, a humanities wing (English and social studies) on the second floor, a new choral room, library and computer lab upgrades, an enhanced secure entrance and more.
Since January, administrators and teachers have been evaluating the classroom spaces available for use during the transition – including the former Kasson Road Elementary School owned by the district – to determine the least disruptive plan. In that time, board members quickly realized how much the Marcellus community values a single, unified campus.
Board member Michael McAuliff, a retired elementary school principal who has been down the capital project road before, said he thought the availability of the Kasson Road facility was “a blessing.” At least until he started talking to people around town.
“I seriously underestimated the importance of a single campus. It’s very important to this community,” Mr. McAuliff said. “I truly believe the relocation plan we have is the best plan for this project at this time in this community.”
Fellow board member Janine Lundrigan commended district staff for all their time, thought and effort. She said her chief concern – that underclassmen enrolled in accelerated courses up at the high school will have enough time to travel between DMS and SHS – has been sufficiently addressed. The plan calls for the clustering of classes to maximize the time that DMS-based students spend at the high school.
“We’ve been spending a lot of time looking at class schedules to figure out the least amount of movement,” Dr. Pastel said. “I’m just really proud of the staff. They’ve really taken ownership and engaged in some important problem-solving.”
Some community members have suggested turning DMS into a junior-senior high school building for grades 7-12. But the middle school doesn’t have enough specialized classrooms (science labs, art rooms with running water, etc.) to accommodate all high school students simultaneously, Dr. Pastel said.
The mother of an eighth-grader expressed concern that her daughter would miss out on the chance to mingle with upperclassmen over the next two years. Marcellus High School Principal John Durkee said all clubs and extracurricular activities will be available to students in grades 9-12, and the school’s site-based team has suggested extending the daily activity period to 3:15 p.m., to ensure all DMS-based students would have enough time to travel to the high school. Students in grades 9-12 also will be together for school assemblies, homecoming events and athletics.
“It’s not just a 9-10 sacrifice,” Mrs. Lundrigan said. “Teachers and students at every level are sacrificing something. But to do nothing would be far worse.”
Another parent applauded the plan’s special focus on 10th graders, who made the move to the high school this year and now will need to move back. Administrators have talked about turning the DMS atrium into a 10th grade space.
“Every effort to help those kids be reoriented and comfortable is well worth it,” the parent said.
Feb. 26, 2016
Superintendent to present 2016-18 relocation plan
During a special Board of Education meeting on Monday, Feb. 29, Superintendent of Schools Judith C. Pastel will present to board members the administration’s plan for relocating students and staff during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years. The shifts are necessary to allow for renovation work at Marcellus High School as part of the $14.85 million capital improvement project approved by district voters last March.
The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. in the Driver Middle School cafeteria.
“I’m grateful to everyone in the community who weighed in as we worked to pare our options down to the best one,” Dr. Pastel said. “I’m confident the relocation plan we’ve developed provides the least disruptive way to accommodate sorely needed improvements at our 50-year-old high school that will benefit generations of Marcellus children.”
The plan calls for grades 9 and 10 to move to Driver Middle School for the next two school years, while grade 4 relocates to K.C. Heffernan Elementary School. Grades 11 and 12 will remain at Marcellus High School; grades 5-8 will stay at DMS; and grades K-3 will remain at KCH. District administrative offices, currently housed at DMS, will temporarily move to another location on or close to campus.
In the fall, when the facilities committee mapped out the sequence of the project’s specific renovations, district officials learned the high school building would not be able to accommodate four grade levels while work crews simultaneously gutted and overhauled all learning spaces. Administrators began reviewing possible relocation options, keeping in mind five guiding principles:
Safety of students and staff;
Quality of instruction;
Seniors graduating from their high school; and
“After reviewing all the options available to us, I believe having all students and staff remain on campus is the safest, least-disruptive, most cost-effective approach,” Dr. Pastel said. “And keeping our oldest students at the high school will allow them to end their educational journeys right where generations of Marcellians have – on the auditorium stage.”
For more information: Check out the “Student/Staff Relocation” page on the website. The page, which can be accessed at any time by clicking on the bright orange banner at the top of the home page, is intended to serve as a clearinghouse for any questions or concerns that students, parents and community members might have about the 2016-2018 relocation. District officials will continue to post answers to questions as they come in. Feb. 19, 2016
Q: Why doesn't the district move grades 9-12 to DMS and move grades 5 and 6 to the high school?
Moving the entire high school population to DMS is not feasible for a variety of reasons. First, there are not sufficient art, science and technology rooms to support the high school courses. Second, during Phase I the high school science labs/classrooms will be renovated so the 11th and 12th grades will move into those classrooms during February 2017. They are the students who need these classrooms the most for quality instruction. Third, during such an extensive renovation, our oldest students will better cope with the construction and they know the building best after two years of attendance. Fourth, if grades 9-12 and grades 5-6 were moved, we would increase the disruption to more students than is warranted. Fifth, one of our guiding principles is to have our (juniors and) seniors graduate from the high school. That not only includes walking the stage in the high school auditorium but also spending their final year(s) in their high school. Feb. 12, 2016
Administrators answer more questions about relocation plans
Administrators have been answering community member’s questions that have emerged since the Feb. 1 Board of Education meeting about temporarily relocating some students and staff during the district’s capital project in 2016-17 and 2017-18. We will continue to post answers to new questions as they come in. So if you have any, pleaseemail them to Superintendent of Schools Judith C. Pastel.
Marcellus High School Principal John Durkee and other administrators met with students in grades eight and nine last week to answer their questions about the relocation plans.
A summary of these questions appears below.
Will Advanced Placement (AP) classes and/or accelerated classes be affected?
Accelerated, AP, SUPA, and OCC classes will be offered depending on student interest and enrollment, as they have been in prior years. The relocation does not affect these course offerings at all.
Will the art program stay the same?
All courses with sufficient enrollment will be offered. Courses will be offered at both the high school and DMS. The district’s art teachers are planning to have some modifications within a course. For example, a Photo I course at DMS will be run digitally with Chromebooks or Media Lab access and Adobe Photoshop software. In this case, in the students’ second year, they would learn the darkroom developing and printing processes and create mixed portfolios of both approaches.
Are there any plans for the gymnasium being renovated?
The gymnasium itself is not being renovated. However, all the locker rooms and offices around the gymnasium are being renovated, so the gymnasium will be unavailable during Phase 3.
Will chorus or band concerts be performed at DMS or SHS?
All ninth- through twelfth-grade concerts will be performed in the SHS auditorium as in prior years.
What part of the middle school will grades 9-10 be in?
The first floor will house the majority of ninth- and tenth-grade classes. Students will be able to access the library and music rooms on the second floor. Specific staircases will be designated for their use.
What will grades 9-10 do for lockers at DMS?
Lockers are still under review; however, temporary lockers will be obtained if necessary.
How will shuttles fit into the bell schedule?
The passing time will be changed from 4 to 5 minutes. Also, teachers will know the names of students in their classes who are going to a different building. We are continuing to work on this.
Part of the plan is to have blocks of periods that students will be in one building. For example, chemistry would be first period, lab and physical education (PE) would be second period, math would be third, art could be fourth and then lunch would be fifth. After that “block,” the student would go to DMS.
Why don't ninth- and 10th-graders go to Kasson?
This idea was investigated. Kasson Road is an elementary school. The school does not have sufficient classrooms. There are not multiple art rooms and there are no science classrooms. Additionally, the number of teachers that might need to travel the 15 minutes between the high school and Kasson would make it impractical.
Why not put the lower grades at Kasson?
One of our guiding principles is to minimize disruptions. Third grade would be leaving KCH after this year normally so the relocation is not “disrupting” third-grade students. Yes, it does move entering fifth-grade students. As with the high school seniors graduating from the high school, we want our beginning school experience to be in KCH.
Will time between classes be extended?
Yes. The passing time will be changed from 4 to 5 minutes. Also, teachers will know the names of students in their classes that are going to a different building. We are continuing to work on this. (See the question above about bell schedules.)
Will we eat with our own class or will classes be mixed?
Lunch periods will be mixed as they are now at the high school. However, the district is looking into being able to have a special seating area for 10th- and perhaps ninth-graders
Questions from parents and other community members:
Will my child be “shoe-horned” into a classroom?
No, the district is taking time to review classrooms needed, the number of students in the classroom and the physical size of the different classrooms. That concern was one of the first ones administrators started to investigate when the possibility of keeping all students on campus emerged. Marcellus is also making sure the classrooms are appropriate for the course being taught. For example, art courses needing water will be in rooms with water and a sink.
Will our high school students’ elective opportunities be diminished?
No. The relocation of students and staff will not impact the elective opportunities. However, enrollment and student interest do impact the electives offered.
Which administrator will be responsible for the 10th-grade students?
Mr. Durkee will be in charge of all students in grades 9-12.
Will students in grades 9-10 located at Driver Middle School be considered high school students or DMS students?
High school students. DMS will become a middle/high school in 2016-17 and 2017-18. Ninth- and 10th-graders will be considered high school students with high school responsibilities, perks and privileges. They will follow the school’s acceptable use policy for cell phones and be allowed to carry backpacks.
How will the relocated students access teachers during free periods for support?
Even when all students in grades 9-12 are physically located at the high school, Mr. Durkee cannot guarantee a student can see his/her teachers during a free period during the day. However, after school visits will still be available. Student-faculty communication will be more important than ever, so students will know where the teachers will be at the end of the day. Extra help will still be available.
How will high school students access the school counseling department?
Right now, Mr. Durkee plans to have the counselors traveling between buildings. Offices will be in both buildings. Again, communication will be key. Students will have to know when and where their counselors are. School counselors are well aware of the challenges involved, and Mr. Durkee won’t rest until the logistics are completely worked out.
How will information be shared with the relocated students? They won’t have the same access to posters/notices if they’re not in the high school.
This is something that will be very important. Posters and other written notices will still be available in both buildings. Mr. Durkee is working on an electronic submission of morning announcements that both DMS and SHS be able to access. Extracurricular advisers are examining their options for cross-building communication, as well.
What will the relocated students do for science labs?
The district will utilize both old and new labs at DMS, but chemistry and physics labs will still be held at the high school.
Because you are disrupting the students’ “high school experience,” what will you be adding to make this positive? “School spirit” for the displaced students has already diminished with the news of the relocation plans.
Administrators are keenly aware of the issues raised by this question. They have already begun looking into some special things for the ninth- and 10th-graders at Driver, but Mr. Durkee said it’s too early in the process to offer specifics.
Will students be walking between DMS and the high school?
No. The plan is to maintain a continuous loop to bus students back and forth. Some students might prefer to walk, but it’s doubtful there will be enough time between classes. The district is looking to minimize travel for students.
What will this mean for curriculum night? Will parents still follow their student's schedule and go between the buildings?
Great question. There’s no set answer right now, but Mr. Durkee’s preference would be to have both schools’ curriculum nights held simultaneously, to allow parents the full experience of the school day. That is a huge part of that night.
How does one know about upcoming meetings? I received nothing from School News Notifier (SNN). Do you have to check the website?
Board of Education meetings are scheduled and posted on the district’s online calendar, as well as the BOE page on the website. The district also recently added a “Staff/student relocation” news page on the website, which can be accessed by clicking the orange banner near the top of the page. The superintendent also plans to use SNN to announce future meetings for which relocation discussions are planned. The electronic signs on North Street were used and will continue to announce meetings regarding renovations/relocation.
Feb. 2, 2016
BOE discusses relocation of students, staff for capital project
On Feb. 1, the Marcellus Board of Education held a special meeting to discuss issues related to the district’s capital project phasing – specifically, the relocation of students it will require during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years.
Nearly 50 community members, including parents and staff, attended the meeting.
“I’m grateful to all those who participated and helped provide a productive dialogue about their concerns,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Judith Pastel said. “Their input is invaluable as we try to settle on the least disruptive way to accommodate sorely needed improvements at our 50-year-old high school that will benefit generations of Marcellus children.”
Background: Unlike with a renovation project in the private sector, in which construction plans are drafted before financing is secured, school districts have to find the money first – by seeking voter approval with a referendum. After Marcellus residents approved the capital project last March, the district’s architects were able to prepare the project’s plans and specifications, which then were submitted to the New York State Education Department in September.
The process continued to unfold throughout the fall, as the facilities committee – composed of board members, administrators, teachers, community members, architects, engineers and the clerk of the works – worked on phasing, or establishing the sequence in which various projects would be completed.
Relocation: It was during these phasing discussions that the district realized the renovations would require a more extensive relocation of students than originally anticipated. Essentially, the high school building cannot accommodate four grade levels while work crews gut and overhaul all learning spaces. So administrators began reviewing possible relocation options, keeping in mind five guiding principles:
Safety of students and staff;
Quality of instruction;
Seniors graduating from their high school; and
Options: Administrators have narrowed the possibilities down to two, both of which keep grades 11-12 at the high school: 1)Grades 6-10 at DMS; 4-5 at the former Kasson Road Elementary (still owned by the district); and K-3 at KCH; or 2) Grades 5-10 at DMS; K-4 at KCH; and district administration at the St. Francis Religious Education Building, which the district would lease.
Administrators will continue to study the merits of both scenarios, and Dr. Pastel will render a final decision by March 8. Between now and then, the superintendent said she encourages anyone with additional questions or concerns about the relocation to email her or individual board members.
Questions: Among the questions posed last night:
Was the cost of relocating students factored into the project’s overall budget?
Yes. Included in the project’s 25 percent allocation for incidental costs is $300,000- $400,000 for relocation of people, furniture and supplies, Business Administrator Anthony Sonnacchio explained.
Will the relocation affect class size, staffing or the quality of instruction? No. There will be no reduction in FTE as a result of the capital project, or there are no plans to squeeze more students into fewer classrooms. The quality of the district's educational program will remain constant, as dictated by the guiding principles listed above.
Is incoming Superintendent of Schools Michelle Brantner aware of the relocation issue? Yes. Dr. Pastel and Mrs. Brantner have begun bi-weekly meetings, and this is one of the topics they will discuss each time.
Will students in grades 9-10 have to travel from DMS to SHS for accelerated course work or other specialized instruction? Yes, but the class schedules will be created with them in mind, so students can avoid multiple trips between buildings and maximize the value of those trips.
Will the bell schedule for students in grades 9-10 and 11-12 be the same? Yes. Actually, administrators expect grades 7 through 12 to all have the same bell schedule. And, to accommodate having both elementary and secondary schedules under one roof (DMS), the district might need to increase the amount of time students are given to move between classes, which could necessitate extending the length of the school day by as much as 10 minutes.
If Marcellus opts to locate students in grades 4-5 at Kasson Road, will they be sharing the building with students from other districts? No. If Kasson Road is part of the relocation plan, the district would not lease space there for use by any other programs.
Why didn’t the district consider using portable classrooms outside the high school? It did. In the fall, when administrators still believed three grades could fit in the high school during construction, the use of portables for ninth-graders was considered and ultimately rejected because of cost, safety and weather concerns. Marcellus would have needed 12 portable classrooms, at an estimated cost of $750,000, to create the necessary swing space for grades 10-12 at the high school. The portable scenario also would have required students to spend most of the school day shuttling between them in a parking lot, an impractical plan in light of Central New York’s harsh winters. Also, ensuring the safety and security of a school building and 12 portable classrooms – by keeping students on campus and unwelcome strangers off – would not have been feasible for the school resource officer.
Have other school districts had to relocate children during renovations? Yes. Mrs. Brantner, Dr. Pastel and several other administrators have experience with renovation-related relocations. Every district has different needs during capital projects. Marcellus to fortunate to have an extra elementary building at its disposal, as well as room at DMS and KCH.
Middle school and high school students abide by separate sets of rules, i.e. high school students may carry backpacks to classes, whereas their middle school counterparts may not. Will students in grades 9 and 10 be treated as high-schoolers even though they’re based at DMS? Yes. In fact, Principal John Durkee and Dr. Pastel planned to meet with ninth-graders to make sure they’re aware of these and others concerns they might have and plan accordingly.