The need and desire for major improvements to Walden Elementary School have been on the Valley Central radar for a number of years. The on-and-off topic will be front and center this week, when the school district holds a public forum at the school to gather input on the future of the brick building.
The community is invited to a VC21 forum on Wednesday’s Jan 31 at 6:30 p.m. at the school, located at 75 Orchard Street in the village. Tours of the school building will be conducted at that time.
“VC 21 is a forum for communicating with our parents and community. The forum provides the community with information on new standards and mandates that the District must address,” according to the Valley Central School District website. “We share the numerous initiatives we are working on to meet the needs of our students in an ever-changing environment. The forum allows for questions and suggestions about instruction and family/community engagement. It allows us to hear from all stakeholders in a neutral environment.”
The district continues to increase community involvement, through VC21, providing tours of facilities and surveys to gain input. The board has, in the past, discussed the need for major capital improvements to the Walden Elementary School.
“So this is a large effort that we’re going to undertake. It’s going to be the entire community It’s going to need to be involved so everybody’s voice is important and we’re going to be organizing school tours to provide firsthand insight into the current state of the school,” said Board President Joseph Bond at a recent school board meeting.
School District Superintendent Evette Avila presented an outline of the plan to improve the Walden Elementary School building at a school board meeting in September.
Avila said the plan has three phases. Phase 1, now under way, includes forming a building committee and preparing a feasibility report. The committee will then gather input from the community. The committee will conduct equity comparisons with other elementary schools. The Walden Committee will visit other elementary schools in and out of the district.
In Phase 2, the committee will share its feasibility report and make a recommendation to the school board. The board will make a decision and decide a voting process. A community vote will then take place.
In Phase 3, the design process will take place. The district will submit its plans to the New York State Department of Education. Once the State Education Department approves the raw plan, the bidding process will take place and the district will award contracts to begin work.
The board discussed long-range projects and a five-year plan at last week’s meeting. A representative of CSArch noted that some items have been identified through the five year plan process and meeting with the administrators - items such as a steam lab, cafeteria expansion, the greenhouse. Others include a turn field at the high school and auditorium seating replacement.
Walden’s prospective list is quite lengthy. It includes an electrical distribution system, water supply system repairs, air conditioning and a cafeteria expansion.
The Valley Central School District, in early 2017, first raised the possibility of replacing the school, among the oldest in the district. A five-year plan, issued at that time, identified a new elementary school in the village as a wish-list item. The estimated cost of a new school building was estimated at $40 million, according to then-superintendent John Xanthis, with the state picking up approximately 67 percent of the cost.
There has been no further public discussion since that time, of replacing the Walden school, but the district has undertaken several capital projects to improve all of its facilities, with more proposed.