By ASHLEIGH LIVINGSTON
---- — ELLENBURG CORNERS — Last month, Northern Adirondack Central students returned from summer vacation to newly upgraded learning facilities.
After nearly four years in the works, the district recently celebrated the completion of its $29 million capital-improvement project, which included extensive renovations to the Middle/High School and Elementary School buildings, as well as technology, security and energy-efficiency improvements.
“It’s pretty impressive,” said NACS Superintendent Laura Marlow, who initiated the project, funded by an EXCEL grant, in 2009.
As a result, a heated walkway to the Middle/High School now prevents ice from forming and paves the way to the school’s new, grand entrance.
Once inside the facility’s first set of doors, people are met by the school’s main office and a second set of doors, which visitors must be buzzed through.
The added security of double doors has also been incorporated into the Elementary School, just as major offices and services in both buildings have been grouped together near the main entrances.
This makes services easier for parents to access, said NACS Business Executive Brain Tousignant, and prevents visitors from having to go deep into student-occupied areas.
“It just creates a little ease,” he said.
In addition, all main doors now require individuals to have swipe cards in order to gain entry; outside lighting and both indoor and outdoor security cameras have been installed on campus; and perimeter fencing now encloses the elementary playground.
In the past, Marlow noted, there was little separation in the secondary building between the Middle School and High School grades.
Now, however, a corridor separates the renovated High School portion of the facility from the recently added Middle School wing, which includes 10 new classrooms and a courtyard.
All Middle School and High School students have new lockers as a result of the project, and natural lighting has also been incorporated throughout the halls of the building, resulting in no shortage of windows.
In addition, the hallways in the Middle School wing were given names that are displayed on signs and reflect character-education terms, including Perseverance Avenue, Responsibility Avenue, Resourcefulness Boulevard and Adventurous Avenue.
“The kids helped pick those out,” Marlow said.
And in the High School part of the facility, where every classroom received fresh paint and carpeting, hallways will be named after colleges.
“We’re really trying to promote success for every student,” Marlow said, though, she added, being successful doesn’t necessarily mean attending college.
The library, which previously had no walls, is now closed in and includes skylights and a computer room.
“We’re really gearing up for the new electronic testing that will be taking place,” Marlow said.
The district’s auditorium and pool, which hadn’t been upgraded since they were built in 1971, were both completely gutted and redone.
The auditorium, which, Tousignant noted, is heavily used by the public, now boasts a balcony, state-of-the-art sound system, floor lighting and accommodations for wheelchair users.
“We’re trying to allow it to be that focal point for the community,” he said.
The school’s locker rooms were gutted and outfitted with private showers, new lockers and a team room, complete with a whiteboard.
In addition, the project included the construction of a second gym in the Middle/High School, which, Marlow said, has allowed for better scheduling of sports practices.
An outdoor eating area has also been added to the building’s cafeteria.
The district’s fitness center, which is open to the public from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, received new lighting and an air-conditioning system.
“We encourage faculty and staff to use this, as well as the community,” Marlow said. “They should reap the benefits of their tax dollars.”
Also part of the project were the construction of a concession stand and outdoor bathrooms to accommodate attendees of the district’s sporting events.
“The rural school, in our case, has become the hub of the community,” Marlow said.
SOURCE OF PRIDE
In the elementary building, the majority of classrooms were outfitted with new cabinets, carpeting, blinds, lighting and cubbies for students.
“The teachers have been incredibly patient throughout the whole process,” Marlow said.
A new serving line was installed in the elementary cafeteria to facilitate a better lunchtime flow, and a wheelchair lift was also added to the building.
In addition, elementary students no longer attend music classes in the school’s basement, but rather in a new music space, complete with natural lighting, a curved ceiling for better acoustics and walls covered with whiteboards from ceiling to floor.
“I think when kids can take pride in their classrooms, it makes them gain interest in other extra-curricular activities, too,” Marlow said.
The district and business offices, previously at different ends of the Elementary School, were also combined and relocated to a newly renovated space in the facility.
A small addition was also put on to accommodate the offices, which can now be visited through a separate entrance to the building, making them easily accessible to the public.
Tousignant added that the capital project also entailed a lot of district-wide upgrades that cannot be seen by the naked eye, including implementation of energy-efficient lighting and a new heating system.
“There’s a lot of infrastructure work that went on in the project that will benefit students for years to come,” he said.
Email Ashleigh Livingston:firstname.lastname@example.org