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Q: What is the total cost of this proposed project and how will it affect my taxes?
A: The total cost of the proposed Elementary School Improvement & Consolidation Project is $53,469,266. The project will be paid for by a combination of State Building Aid and available District funds, with the remaining local share to be financed through the local tax levy. The specific amount applied to each household’s tax bill will depend on the home’s assessed value, STAR designation, and veterans exemption.
Q: Why don’t we just upgrade our current buildings and make repairs?
A: Upgrading each of our three current elementary buildings would require over $65 million in needed work to improve all three aging facilities (which does not include contemporary safety upgrades). This is not a sustainable model for a responsible school district in a permanent tax cap era.
Q: How long will the construction phase of this project take
A: Significant construction is planned to begin in the summer of 2021. This project is expected to be completed and prepared for students and staff to begin the start of the school year in the fall of 2023.
Q: How much NYS aid and financial support is allocated for this project?
A: The total amount of NYS aid for this project is $37,888,852. This NYS aid amount includes $12,901,815 assigned to this project after the district successfully lobbied for and was awarded a one-time cost allowance allocation of additional state aid. This special allowance is only available for this consolidation project and could NOT be allocated to our district for any other project.
Q: Why do this now?
A: There are many reasons to initiate this final phase of TONA2020. We are striving to be responsible and conservative to our taxpayers while working to meet the changing needs of our students, school safety, and community support. The newly consolidated facility would not require significant repair or replacement for many years. We are taking proactive steps to be a sustainable organization in a permanent tax-cap era.
Q: What will happen to the Riverview and Mullen Schools
A: The Riverview and Mullen schools will be closed for student attendance in June 2023. Our district has an extremely successful record of transitioning school buildings and other properties to new owners that are good stewards and neighbors in our community. The goal of the district is to sell Mullen and Riverview schools - immediately following their closure in the Fall of 2023 - to a purchaser that will add to our community tax base. The district has already received inquiries regarding the opportunity to purchase the schools should this capital project and consolidation plan be approved.
Q: Has this project been studied by a committee including community members?
A: The TONA2020 project has had many phases and has been studied often. The Long-Range Plan Report 2005, the Staffing Study 2005, the Facilities Task Force Recommendation 2010, and the Long-Range Planning Committee (TONA2020) updates are all available on our website. Each of these internal and external studies recommends that a consolidated elementary campus is best suited for our students, families, staff, and community. Our most recent TONA2020 committee, including numerous community members, unanimously recommended this project to the Board of Education to consider sending to the community for approval.
Q: Where will 4th and 5th grade students attend school during construction?
A: During the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school years, the 4th grade students will attend Riverview and Mullen schools in the attached temporary classrooms. The 5th grade students will attend school in a separate wing of the middle school.
Q: How will 4th and 5th grade students be transported to school during this project?
A: Our 4th grade students that qualify for busing will be transported on current neighborhood bus runs with students that attend Riverview and Mullen Schools. Our 5th grade students that qualify for busing will be transported on current neighborhood bus runs with students that attend the Middle School/High School complex.
Q: Are the temporary classrooms appropriate for instruction
A: These classrooms are designed based on the required square footage mandated by the NYS Education Department. Each room will be climate controlled for all seasons. These rooms are attached to each building and will allow for use of all spaces currently contained in that building (cafeteria, gymnasium, restrooms, etc.).
Q: What will the grade levels be of the consolidated Fletcher school?
A: All Tonawanda Warriors in grades UPK-5 will attend the new Fletcher school building. Additional UPK classes will continue at our community based organizations.
Q: When was the most recent roofing work completed at each district building?
Fletcher Elementary School: Elevator Addition Completed in 2001 (including new roof system on Elevator Shaft); Entire building roofing system work completed in 1989.
Mullen Elementary School: Roofing system replaced for the entire building was completed in 2013.
Riverview Elementary School: Roofing system replaced for the entire building was completed in 1989.
Middle School / High School: Capital Project updates/additions in 2001 included new roof systems in these areas; Entire building roofing system work completed in 2008 – 2009.
Q: What will it cost the district to maintain Mullen and Riverview Schools until they are sold?
A: The buildings that are no longer used for student attendance would be maintained with minimal services for electrical, gas and water service that will reduce utility costs by an estimated 65%. Exterior areas including grass cutting, snow plowing, playgrounds, and other shared areas will be maintained while the district maintains ownership of these properties. The district will not be incurring the large cost drivers of operating a building that include the daily cleaning, maintenance, and materials/equipment needed to serve an operating school.
Q: Will this project result in the loss of district positions
A: This project was not designed to eliminate staff. However, it is likely that the district will realize staffing efficiencies that could reduce the number of employees. Our plan is to address as many necessary staffing reductions through attrition (retirements, resignations, etc.) prior to the project completion date of 2024.
Q: Are flat roofs the best design for the new building? Is a pitched roof a better idea or reduce our long-term costs?
A: The design and construction of pitched roofs are significantly more expensive in materials and labor. This would increase the cost of the project for our community and shows little functional improvement. Additionally, pitched roofs represent a higher safety risk in school design due to the ice and snow slides in our climate area.
Q: What green technologies are being considered for TONA2020?
A: An alternative geothermal system was considered, but removed because it was cost prohibitive for this project and our taxpayers. Green technologies are being considered for the planned energy efficient heating system as well as material selections within the building and low flow water systems. Additionally, we are planning to include passive energy savings by the use of reflective window glazing (reduces heat and infrared energy) and argon air space and thermal break frames (better controls room temperature).
Q: What is the current student maximum occupancy - based on NYS Department of Education design standards - for our three elementary buildings compared with the result of a consolidation to one elementary building?
A: Our three elementary buildings, by code, can support 1,026 students (Fletcher 324, Mullen 378 and Riverview 324). The new single elementary building at Fletcher would have a student occupancy, by code, of 1,298.
Q: Are the costs associated with the temporary classrooms part of this capital project?
A: Yes, all costs of leasing classroom space for the fourth-grade students during the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school years are included in the capital project costs.
Q: If this capital project is approved, when will I see a change in my school taxes due to this project?
A: Taxpayers will begin seeing the project costs reflected in their school tax bills in 2023.
Q: Why was the current Fletcher school site selected for the Elementary School Improvement and Consolidation Plan?
A: The Fletcher Elementary school site was determined to be the best option to accommodate the total educational program required to consolidate our elementary program into one facility. The Fletcher Elementary site is 8.2 acres. The Mullen Elementary site is 5.1 acres. The Riverview Elementary site is 8.0 acres. We evaluated all three existing elementary school sites. The site evaluation included total acreage, building orientation on the site, building square footage requirements, the need for two playgrounds, a playfield, a parking lot, an appropriate-sized bus drop-off loop and a student drop-off loop that removes traffic and dangers from current configurations. The Fletcher Elementary site is the only one that can adequately accommodate the instructional program and related services. Additionally, the close proximity to the Middle School / High School allowed for additional uses of the building and athletic/pool areas for the elementary-age students.