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Proposed Facility Renovations, Fall Sports Focus of ECS School Board Meeting

By Jann Wiswall

An extensive to-do list of renovations to the Ellicottville Central School, especially the sections built in 1962 and 1988, and a banner year for ECS Fall sports teams were the primary discussion topics of the Oct. 23 meeting of the Ellicottville Board of Education.

After bringing the meeting to order and approving the agenda and Oct. 9 meeting minutes, Board President Roger Spell turned the discussion over to Superintendent Mark Ward for an update on potential building improvements and renovations that are under consideration.

Ward announced that there will be a meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 7 p.m. to discuss potential projects. The architect, construction experts and financial advisors who have been enlisted to do preliminary assessments of what is needed and how to pay for them will be on hand to “walk us through where we are and where we might go,” Ward said. They may also “help us do a prioritization” of that list. Participants in the school’s strategic planning process will be invited to attend in order to assure adherence to overall strategic goals.

“Until you start putting numbers to items,” explained Ward, “you don’t know what you’re really looking at.” But, from a preliminary financial perspective, he pointed out, “the local impact over the long term was, I thought, reasonable.” Because Ellicottville has a very low debt rate compared to most of the state, Ward believes “that should help in the bond market, if we decide to go that way.” The board concurred with this assessment.

Ward then summarized the long list of building deficiencies, pointing out that “some items are expensive, some not so bad.” The list includes (but is not limited to):

-Roof replacement on the 1962 and 1988 sections of the building, which are original,

-Interior electrical improvements, including a larger box in the High School end, and replacement of wiring in the older building portions, which do not have grounded outlets,

-Regrouting and cleaning exterior brick,

-Addressing considerable ventilation, airflow and moisture control issues in the elementary wing,

-Replacing light fixtures with energy efficient models,

-Investigating heating and cooling upgrades for better efficiency,

-Resurfacing two parking lots and adding lighting for safety,

-Installing lighting on the football/soccer fields,

-Addressing handicap accessibility at several entrances,

-Reconfiguring interior space – “taking what we have and use it differently.”

This last item is a central focus of the project and includes a number of ideas and options but is prompted by a number of inadequacies in the current floor plan of the building. For example, Ward explained, the band and chorus rooms need expansion – they’re currently out of code compliance. The locker rooms are “woefully deficient.” The weight room needs to be located near the locker rooms. The gym “is not what it should be in 2012. We’d like to improve the gym and also add a performing arts facility within it that can be moved in and out as needed.” Ward has asked the architect to think about how that concept might be achieved.

In addition to the above, there are significant issues with technology locations and care. Currently, much of the computer equipment is located in areas that are used for other activities and are at risk of damage.

“We need a designated technology room that is designed to change as technology changes,” said Ward.

Following his overview of building issues, Ward continued his report by noting that he will be including district testing results by school, Buffalo Business First school rankings and Regents Exam comparative data in the October issue of the school newsletter (which can be found under the district link on the ECS web site).

“Our families support education here. Our staff is dedicated. We have all the ingredients for success,” he said. “This data lets people know how we’re doing using several measures.”

Principals Reports

Elementary School Principal Connie Poulin followed with a brief report on a fieldtrip she attended with grades 5 and 7 to the Corning Museum of Glass, where the children enjoyed making their own glass pieces using sandblasting techniques. She also attended a Special Education law conference in Buffalo. To no one’s surprise, she said the kids are eagerly looking forward to the Halloween parade on Wednesday, October 31, in the Village.

Middle/High School Principal Robert Miller then gave his report on activities in his wing, where this week was Red Ribbon Week – dedicated to learning about the dangers of drugs, alcohol and tobacco. Students heard from a New York state trooper about being cautious and aware, and also warned about the dramatic rise in prescription drug abuse across the country. Tenth through twelfth graders also listened to a presentation from the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Department, which not only warned of the dangers of drinking and driving, but also gave an accounting of what a DWI can cost in terms of legal fees and tickets – anywhere from $7,000 to $20,000 depending on the criminal charges and the attorney. Miller said this information “really got their attention.”

In other news, Miller reported that a new vendor has been selected to provide fruit baskets for the Student Council’s popular fundraiser this year. For the first time, people will be able to place orders online, as well as by mail. He also said that five students have been selected by their art teachers to participate in the Cattaraugus County Arts Council enrichment program, which provides college-level instruction in painting and ceramics.

The big news, saved for last, is fall sports, which is now entering playoff season, Miller said. “This has been a banner year.” The girls’ volleyball team is undefeated and, he said, “There has never been a team of this caliber in school history.” At a recent tournament, the team beat much larger schools including North Tonawanda, Faulkner, Portville and Williamsville. “They’re like a well oiled machine.”

Meanwhile, the girls’ soccer team is ranked fourth in the state. And the boys’ soccer and football teams also are having exceptional years. It’s possible that all four teams will be in playoffs over four days. Playoff schedules will be posted soon, but it’s likely the middle school concert will have to be rescheduled because of them.

Shared Services Meeting

Finally, Ward reported that and Principal Poulin, Board President Spell and Board Vice President Connie Hellwig attended a Shared Services meeting at Cattaraugus/Little Valley School to brainstorm how schools in the district, and possibly across districts, might find ways to save money by combining resources. Ward said the discussion ranged from sharing curriculum, transportation and business office functions, to teachers and distance learning. Representatives from Pine Valley, Salamanca, West Valley, Springville, Cattaraugus/Little Valley and ECS attended the meeting, and Randolph and Gowanda schools expressed interest but were unable to attend. Another meeting will be held on Dec. 5 at 6:30 p.m. at Cattaraugus/Little Valley to continue the discussion.

The next meeting of the ECS School Board will be Nov. 6 at 7:30  p.m.

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