Weekly Feature

2018-09-12 / Education

High school to receive most attention in capital project’s second phase

Amherst schools
by PATRICK J. NAGY Reporter

All four buildings in the Amherst Central School District will soon be receiving a face-lift.

At the Sept. 4 Amherst School Board meeting, Jacqueline Dudkowski, project architect at Young and Wright Architectural, said the second phase of the district’s $29.6 million capital improvement project will include updates to all four schools.

The high school will receive the most attention, with renovations to windows, music rooms, main entry, lockers, doors, corridors, heating ventilation and air conditioning.

The middle school will receive new windows, a parking lot and tennis courts, while Smallwood Drive and Windermere Boulevard elementary schools will have old piping and tennis courts replaced.

The second phase is expected to receive approval from the state Education Department by the end of September or mid-October and sent out for construction bids in December. Superintendent Anthony Panella is hoping for construction to start in February.

To make the process as collaborative as possible, many teachers and administrators have given feedback in user group meetings for various capital project items.

Dudkowski said the existing high school music rooms have been described as “prison-like” and “outdated” and have dealt with storage issues and inflexible space that do not allow them to function like a contemporary music room should.

Dudkowski wanted to “do a major gut” to the music rooms, but it was delayed at first because of the state Historic Preservation Office determining that a lot of the design features were character defining of 1950s designs.

“Initially, they didn’t want us to change anything, so we worked with them for a really long time to be able to gain back some of that design freedom that would allow the rooms to be modernized,” Dudkowski said. “All we really had to leave were some of the original finishes in the vestibule and kind of find unique ways to reference the original floor plans. It allowed us a lot of opportunity to give the school a chance to incorporate their branding.”

She said the new windows at the high school will look similar to the school’s original windows, while the new windows at the middle school will allow greater light and ventilation into the rooms.

At the high school, the main entry will be lightened up with a new decorative handrail, wax buildup will be removed on the terrazzo floors, the walls will be painted and new LED lights will be placed in the light fixtures. The front desk will also be replaced.

“We feel like we can brighten up the space a lot and add a lot of grandeur,” Dudkowski said.

Lockers on all three floors of the high school will also be replaced.

The middle school parking lot will also be revamped to address safety as well as pedestrian and traffic flow.

A curb will be added to the main access driveway so that vehicles will no longer be able to park on the side during games.

New sidewalks will be added from the middle school all the way to Saratoga Road.

A majority of the parking lot will be replaced down to the stone.

Panella said a sidewalk on the opposite side of the access driveway was originally part of the plan but is now an alternate part due to the cost of an underwater retention system to help address storm sewer water issues.

“If we only milled and topped the parking lot, and did not address the underground structural problem with the storm sewer, within a matter of five to seven years, the parking lot would look similar to what it does already because the water underneath would continue to erode it,” Panella said. “In order for us to do it the right way, it is going to cost a little bit more.”

Raised sidewalk areas will also be installed in the middle school parking lot to minimize the ability of staff cars to cross with bus circulation.

The tennis courts at the middle school will also be replaced. Twenty parking spots will be be added next to the tennis courts, along with a dedicated area for smaller buses to drop students off closer to the building.

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