Peekskill school officials are scrambling to identify space in Peekskill High School to accommodate the new alternative education program after the state Education Department (SED) advised that the original plan could not be supported through a 2011 bond issue.
Superintendent of Schools James Willis advised the Board of Education about the setback Tuesday after a conversation last week with Curt Miller in the SED’s Office of Facilities Planning.
In a related matter the district is still awaiting SED approval of other bond projects before requesting bids from contractors.
The district has been planning to transform basement space in the Administration Center into three classrooms for high-school students who have not been successful in a traditional classroom setting. The new program, known as the 21st Century Learning Center, would utilize technology, interactive learning and distance learning and would pioneer these new approaches to instruction for the entire student body.
“It’s a lot different from traditional alternative education,” Willis said.
District officials had hoped to fund the $424,000 project through the bond issue approved by voters in May 2011, which would have qualified 70 percent of the cost of the work for reimbursement by the state. Conversion of the space into three classrooms was not specified in the $3.16 million bond issue but the resolution included “other improvements throughout the district” in addition to such specific projects as expansion of the Peekskill High School cafeteria.
The district’s bond counsel advised in mid-April that the project could be funded with unspecified funds from the bond issue, which made the SED rejection that much more of a surprise.
The SED determined that the alternative education work was a separate project outside the scope of the bond.
As an alternative to the Administration Center work, district officials are looking for suitable space in the high school. Specifically, they are looking for two adjacent classrooms separate from the main student body. The goal is still to have the program operating when school reopens in September.
Board President Joseph Urbanowicz questioned whether current storage space in the high school could be utilized instead for educational purposes and suggested that the Administration Center basement might be utilized for storage. Willis said that was among the options being explored.
Carmine Crisci, director of facilities, reported that projects to be funded by the bond issue were still in the SED review pipeline 13 weeks after being submitted. Meanwhile, district staffers are doing what they can to prepare for the work once the SED approves and bids can be solicited and contracts signed.