As one project nears its end, district defines its next priority facility needs

As contractors continue to work towards completion of Wellwood Middle School’s construction and renovations, Fayetteville-Manlius School District officials are finalizing the scope and costs related to the district’s next proposed capital project. 

“The 2017 capital project included renovations and new modern spaces for teaching and learning as well as necessary infrastructure work district wide to ensure our buildings continue to be safe and efficient structures,” Superintendent Craig J. Tice said. “For this next project, we are looking at improvements and critical infrastructure needs primarily at F-M High School, a building in which all of our students culminate their K-12 educational journey.”

The F-M Board of Education Facilities Committee has been working with district administrators as well as representatives from the district’s engineering and architecture firms to refine the scope and costs of the next set of capital projects, which will be based on the three priorities of safety, program and infrastructure. 

With those priorities in mind, the facilities committee is currently considering the following projects at the high school:

  • Expanding the current cafeteria space to accommodate more students and converting it to a two-story multipurpose space that could be used for instruction, extracurricular activities, evening events and serve as a connection point between House 1 and House 2, which were originally built as separate schools and later joined by a second story walkway; 
  • Enclosing the courtyard near the current cafeteria so it could be used as a secure outdoor eating space as well as an outdoor educational space;
  • Consolidating administrative offices, counseling and student services and the nurse’s office into one easily accessible space near the House 1 main entrance; 
  • Renovating aging House 2 classrooms and creating a small addition so technology classrooms could be relocated to the new space, which would create a wing that would house all science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) classrooms; 
  • Upgrading the auxiliary gymnasium and wellness center;
  • Moving the vehicle entrance driveway closer to the district office building to improve the flow of traffic as the district must incorporate a fire lane around the entire school building;
  • Constructing a new central staircase and elevator adjacent to the expanded cafeteria, which would connect the House 1 main entrance to House 2 in order to ease navigation throughout the building;
  • Upgrading aging infrastructure that is nearing, or at, the end of its useful life expectancy, such as the heating and ventilation system; and
  • Improving indoor air quality and energy efficiencies, replacing deteriorating site work, adding air conditioning to House 2 and upgrading aging electrical and plumbing throughout the building. 

The administration and architects updated the F-M Board of Education at its April board meeting on the conceptual plans, which they stressed are still in the early planning stages and could change depending upon the amount of state building aid that would be available for the project. 

They expect that the state would reimburse the district for about 80% of construction costs directly related to instruction, and the district also anticipates utilizing a capital reserve that was previously approved by voters to reduce the total amount the district would finance.

The group anticipates having project cost estimates and a final scope ready to present to the full board in June, and they hope to submit in July a conceptual design to the New York State Education Department for review. Depending on how long that review takes, the committee is anticipating that the board could put forth to voters a capital project referendum sometime between mid-October and mid-December. 

To minimize the tax impact on residents, the committee is hoping to time the project so any new debt would be realized when debt from previous capital projects would be retired in the 2023-24 and 2024-25 school years. 

If voters authorize a project this year, the district anticipates that construction would begin in spring or summer 2023.

“Just like a homeowner, we have to be vigilant about maintaining our buildings,” Tice said. “School buildings age and mechanical systems begin to fail over time. Taxpayers rely on us to protect the investments they make in our district, and that includes making sure the spaces our students learn in are appropriate to the demands of a 21st century education and that the environment is safe and healthy.”