PLATTSBURGH — A study of Plattsburgh City School’s facility use concludes the district could benefit from vacating the Duken Administration Building.
Located at 49 Broad St., the former Broad Street Elementary School currently houses the district’s offices and central services.
“There is some excess capacity in the buildings, primarily in the Middle and High school(s), and we believe it is possible to relocate the central services that are in the Duken Building right now between the two schools,” Dr. Bill Silky of Castallo & Silky Education Consultants told the study’s Advisory Committee.
He and colleague Dr. Phillip Martin will present their final study report to the School Board during its regular public meeting at 7 tonight in the Duken Building.
The City School District contracted the Syracuse-based education consulting firm to determine the practical capacity of each of its buildings, compare that to enrollment history and student projections and determine how facilities would best be utilized in the foreseeable future.
According to the consultant’s findings, enrollment for kindergarten through fifth grade is projected to increase by 7.7 percent over the next five years; however, high-school enrollment is expected to decline 6 percent in that period.
In light of those enrollment projections, the consultants came up with options they felt were feasible and presented them to the committee back in November.
Those initially included:
▶ Maintaining the current building use and configuration.
▶ Selling the Duken Building and closing Oak Street Elementary School, then constructing an addition to Bailey Avenue Elementary School and relocating the district offices to either Oak Street, Bailey Avenue or the middle and high schools.
▶ Selling, leasing or leaving vacant the Duken Building and relocating central services to the middle and high schools.
After further thought and discussion with the committee, however, Silky reported at the December meeting that the third choice “is probably the best and least disruptive and most desirable option.”
While the consultants recommend the district vacate the administration building, they advised against selling it, as elementary enrollment increases may necessitate use of the space down the road.
“We feel it’s really important that the district not lose the Duken Building by selling it and that they really should look for some organization to lease it out,” Silky said.
However, even if a tenant can’t be found for the building, he noted, it’s estimated the district could save between $71,825 and $84,600 annually just by leaving it empty. Those savings would be realized through a reduction in utility costs and the elimination of custodial expenses for the site.
Those figures do not account for the cost of relocating the district offices, Silky continued, as that would be a fairly minimal, one-time expense.
The firm has suggested to City School Superintendent James “Jake” Short how the offices might be best dispersed throughout the middle and high schools, Silky said, but ultimately the administration and staff would have to devise a layout suitable to them.
“It probably would have to be split between the middle and high school(s) because it couldn’t all fit in the High School or all fit in the Middle School, and therefore, that does have some disadvantages for the central services,” he said.
For example, Silky noted, care would have to be taken to ensure communications among the offices would not suffer due to the separation.
Still, he said, “we’re confident from our room-use analysis that it’s not going to adversely impact the students at all if it’s placed properly.”
During the meeting, Advisory Committee member and City School teacher and parent Mary Lou LaRocque-Megarr said she would hate to see the district make the move only to have to reverse it later.
The district offices were previously located in the High School, she noted, and moved because they required more space.
And while budget cuts have eliminated some elective and Advanced Placement courses in recent years, freeing up space for the offices, the hope is that those items would return as money becomes available, she said.
While the reductions were, in part, the result of finances, Silky responded, they were also the result of declining enrollment, and it will be a number of years before the projected increase in elementary students affects High School numbers.
Though the economy will eventually improve and things will cycle back around at some point, he added, his firm was charged with considering the next five to six years.
“And obviously, we’re comfortable in saying that this is, for that period of time, the best plan for the district,” Silky said of vacating and retaining the Duken Building.
MOVING TO ONE SIDE
Short asked committee members how they felt about the district consolidating its offices to one side of the Duken Building and leasing out the remaining space “to show that it could generate revenue, that it could be well-used space, in preparation for if we take the next step of actually leaving.”
The superintendent said he could visualize the district’s central services being rearranged with some ease in a way that would free up roughly three 770-square-foot spaces to be leased.
“I think that makes a lot of sense ... I think that idea is exactly what should be explored,” committee member and Director of Staffing Services at ETS David Coryer said at the meeting.
Silky noted that leasing the entire building would generate more revenue, but Short’s idea was something to be considered.
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TO LEARN MORE Minutes from Building Use Study Advisory Committee meetings and information about the study of City School District buildings is available on the City School's website: plattscsd.org.