By Melanie Lekocevic
Capital Region Independent Media
CAIRO-DURHAM — The $28.9 million capital project in the Cairo-Durham school district has completed its first phase of work and has begun phase 2A.
Construction on phase 1 was ongoing for several months, including a large portion of the work done over the summer of 2021.
Both Cairo-Durham Elementary and Cairo-Durham Middle/High schools saw work completed in the first phase of the project.
Voters approved the $28,935,000 capital project in December 2018, with about 64.2% of the cost eligible for state building aid reimbursement, according to the capital project plan.
The project includes both interior and exterior work on both campuses and aims to make the schools’ facilities and equipment align better with the district’s educational, technological and safety standards, according to a newsletter released by the district in January.
“Our school district is the center of our community,” District Superintendent Michael Wetherbee said. “Not only does this project create a great sense of pride within our schools, but it is providing much-needed upgrades that will allow for increased community access and enhanced educational facilities for our students.”
The project includes classroom renovations, centralized services, community spaces, a new media center, improved athletic facilities, parking lot improvements, installation of air conditioning at the elementary school, and general repairs and maintenance.
In phase 1 of the project, a new state-of-the-art media center was constructed at the middle/high school, including seating areas, new equipment and collaborative workspaces. The facility includes amenities like three “breakout” rooms where students can work individually or in groups, built-in charging ports for laptop computers, and five rows of Mac desktop computers available for student use.
Classroom and office spaces were constructed behind the auditorium for use by the music, visual arts and music technology programs. Classroom spaces were also built to accommodate the district’s growing distance-learning program, in which students can take online classes in schools around the region, such as computer science and American Sign Language, according to the district.
Two science classrooms saw renovations to lab tables, cabinets and seating that hadn’t been updated since the 1970s. Wash stations, hazard hoods and chemical storage spaces were also added to the classrooms.
The middle/high school entrance was reconfigured into a single point of entry for both schools and the main offices and transportation office were relocated to a suite near the new main entrance.
Other improvements completed under phase 1 were resurfacing and reconfiguration of the parking lots, with a revised traffic flow pattern. A new Student Services Center was also created where guidance counselors and social workers are located.
The elementary school front parking lot was also expanded to provide an additional 29 parking spots and air conditioning was installed inside the building. Improvements were made to the health office to meet accessibility needs, including widened doorways to accommodate wheelchairs, and two girls’ bathrooms were renovated.
The next phase of the capital project, phase 2A, is now underway. During this phase, the middle/high school health office will be relocated to a central location — it is currently in the middle school. The change will make the health office more accessible to both middle and high schoolers, according to the district.
The old high school main office, guidance office and faculty workroom are being converted into information technology and custodial storage spaces, as well as new learning spaces for a variety of educational programs.
Outside, the track will be resurfaced to repair cracks, a project that is not expected to interfere with the district’s spring sports season. Some spaces will be reconfigured to provide more space for use by the soccer and football teams.
After phase 2A is completed, phase 2B is expected to last through summer of this year.
Under phase 2B, the space where the old health office was located will be renovated and will house Pupil Personnel Services and the Curriculum and Instruction offices. A pair of boys’ bathrooms at the elementary school will be renovated over the summer, and asbestos abatement will be conducted over the summer as well.
The final phase will also include renovations to more classrooms, including two science classrooms that haven’t been renovated since the building was first constructed in 1976, as well as updates to an art/technology room at the high school.
A fitness center, which will be open to the community and the district’s physical education classes, will be built where the middle school cafeteria is now located. The fitness center will include a separate entrance where community members will be able to enter when school is not in session. With the middle school cafeteria’s removal, a second serving line will be added to the high school cafeteria to accommodate students in grades 6-12, according to the district.
The project is under budget as a result of contractor bids that came in lower than expected, so the Cairo-Durham Board of Education is looking to reassess the scope of the work to add items originally excluded due to cost constraints.
“The district has an opportunity to augment the capital improvement project with items that were cut from the original scope due to budgetary concerns,” Wetherbee said. “The board decided to use the remaining bond funds to address other health and safety items as well as enhancements to our facilities without any additional tax impact.”
Additional work at the middle/high school that will be added to the project include refurbishing the auditorium’s sound system; purchasing wall mats for the gymnasium; replacing the gym’s audio system; adding lights to the athletic field; and creating a classroom for Family and Consumer Science courses. At the elementary school, outdated and unusable locker rooms will be upgraded.
The additional bond funds will also be used to replace water pipes at the middle/high school that date back to 1976, and replace the floor in the high school cafeteria’s kitchen and serving areas.
The capital project was originally slated for completion in September 2022, however with the additional work the district now expects the project to continue into the 2022-23 school year, according to the district.