The total estimated cost and resulting tax
impact of a complete makeover for Albany High
School continue to decline. However, City School
District of Albany Board of Education members
are concerned that the community may not be
ready for the project at the current time.
Those were the major topics addressed during the board’s discussion on
the subject at its Oct. 2 meeting at Sheridan Preparatory Academy.
The seven-year renovation project the district’s design partners
originally outlined at the board’s Sept. 18 meeting now would cost about
$196.3 million, down $2.7 million from the first estimates. Revisions to
the schedule for phasing the renovations also would generate an
additional $8.2 million in state aid.
The original renovation estimate presented Sept. 18 was $22
million-$44 million less than the first designs for renovations or new
construction over a shorter timeline (click
here to download that presentation from the board's July 17
The most current projections would lessen the potential impact on
homeowners. Taxpayers with the basic STAR exemption on homes valued from
$150,000-$250,000 would see a potential increase of $50-$93. Homeowners
with the enhanced STAR for seniors would see a potential increase of
A vote as early as January 15 was proposed.
Click here to download the Oct. 2 board presentation.
You also can
this link to watch a video about the process of
Re-Imagining Albany High School, along with many additional documents
relating to the 20-month community conversation about Albany High's
Major renovations and additions would be phased in
over a seven-year period, beginning with a new fine-arts wing and
auditorium in what is now the rear of the building. The current academic
building would be completely renovated to create two distinct smaller
learning communities, or SLCs. A new academic building with three SLCs
would be added along Washington Avenue.
The renovations and
additions would be done in phases, making new spaces available as they
are completed and allowing the school more flexibility in implementing
new academic initiatives connected to the district's 2020 Vision for
However, several board members questioned whether the project would
generate enough community support to pass. Several speakers during the
public-comment period at the start of the meeting also said they were
more concerned with raising student achievement before taking on a
costly facilities project.
“Even though we started off this endeavor with a lot of community input
and feedback, we are still getting comments from the community that it’s
still up in the air how they are feeling,” said Board President Rose
Brandon, Th.D., noting also that a public vote at least would allow the
community to be heard on the project.
“I don’t think it’s realistic to do this by January,” Vice President Dan
Secretary Ginnie Farrell noted the serious financial pressures facing
the City of Albany following Mayor Kathy Sheehan’s recently released
“I am thrilled with the current plan, but … the question of whether we
can pass this right now is not just about us as a school district, it’s
about us as a city,” Farrell said.
Board member C. Anthony Owens questioned whether the investment in a
facility would pay off in raising achievement.
“We’re going to put a lot of money into a new building, and we might get
the same results,” he said. “I don’t want to pay for that.”
Board member Alex Streznewski said she believed the high school
renovation is critical to the success of the district’s 2020 Vision for
secondary transformation. She said she would be willing to support the
plan for a community referendum in January.
“It’s going to be an uphill battle no matter when we do it,” she said.
Times Union reported on the discussion in its Oct. 4 editions.
The board is scheduled to discuss the topic again at its Oct. 16
meeting. The meeting will be held at Albany School of Humanities (ASH),
108 Whitehall Road, beginning at 7 p.m.
Concept design forum provides first
glimpse of possible designs
100 people gathered in the Albany High School
north cafeteria June 18 to continue the process
of re-imagining the future of high school
education in our community.
Students, parents, community members and staff
members participated in the Concept Design Forum (pictured at right), studying
preliminary ideas for what new high school facilities could look like
and advancing a process that began 18 months ago and has included input
and feedback from hundreds.
Please visit the Re-Imagining Albany High School website, where you can
watch a video about the project. You also can view or download related
documents such as the Board of Education’s High School Vision and the
educational specifications and space relationship diagrams that informed
the first drafts of building designs.
You also can read
a June 20 Times Union article
about the Concept Design Forum.
“We had deep and robust conversations about the work
we have done together over the past 18 months, and especially about the
draft design concepts that have evolved from that work,” Superintendent
Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, Ph.D., said at the following night's board
“We will take all of (the June 18) feedback into
account as we move forward over the next few weeks with the Facilities
Committee and our design partners.”
The board's Facilities Committee continued work
on the design options July 10, and the full board will revisit the
updated designs and preliminary cost estimates at its
meeting July 17 at Albany High. That meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the
The three preliminary designs all would build on the
site of the current high school at 700 Washington Ave. Each design
features a separate lower school and upper school. A lower school on one
side of the facility would include three smaller learning communities
for freshmen and sophomores, designed to provide the school's youngest
students with the additional supports many need for a successful
transition to high school.
An upper school on the other side of the facility
would include two smaller learning communities for juniors and seniors.
The upper-school experience would include numerous options for students
to participate in college work and hands-on experiences in the community
alongside traditional high school requirements.
"We want to think about high school not only as a
place within the walls, but also as a place beyond our walls," Dr.
Vanden Wyngaard said.
The lower and upper academic wings would be divided
by a wide multi-story enclosed common area, similar to the way Albany
High's current outdoor courtyard separates the school's current academic
wing from the auditorium, music wing, physical education wing and main
One of the current preliminary design options is a
major renovation with some new construction, one is primarly new
construction that preserves only the current main gym, and the third
option is entirely new construction. Cost estimates for each, and a full
picture of the state aid that would support the project, will be
determined as the designs are updated and finalized later this summer.
Numerous opportunities for public participation will
follow through the summer and fall. The board is working toward the Oct.
16 board meeting for approval of a final design concept to send to
voters. A referendum tentatively is planned for December.
“Our work between now and then will include many more
opportunities for stakeholder input, and we look forward to continuing
that work and that partnership toward what I know will be a strong plan
for our future,” Dr. Vanden Wyngaard said.
Board presentation marks first preliminary design options
The City School District of Albany’s process of Re-Imagining Albany High
School moved forward June 5 with a Board of Education presentation of
the first ideas of what a new or renovated school could look like.
Superintendent Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, Ph.D.,
and the district’s architectural design partners outlined three concepts
based on the district’s 2020 Vision for secondary transformation, and
informed by 18 months of planning in partnership with the board,
community and staff.
download the June 5 PowerPoint presentation, which include the
preliminary designs discussed at the meeting.
Demographic and enrollment study envisions future facilities
The Board of Education commisioned a demographic and enrollment study in
the spring of 2014, with a final report presented in June.
Although the city's population of school-age children is expected to
remain steady, the study also considered district enrollment trends with
variables such as a significant increase in Albany High School's
graduation rate and the continued closure of underperforming charter
schools. Three charter schools have closed in recent years due to poor
academic and financial performance, and seven of the city's remaining
nine charter schools are up for review over the next two years. That
includes both current charter high schools, which served a combined
total of about 500 Albany students during the 2013-14 school year.
District and Albany High enrollment were nearly 9,000 and 2,300,
respectively, during the 2013-14 school year. The study determined that
those figures could grow beyond 10,500 and 3,800, respectively, over the
next 10 years.
Click here to download the June 2014 Demographic and
School's 40th anniversary marked by planning for the future of
high school education
High School turned 40 during the 2013-14 school year.
Back in 1973-74, the school at 700 Washington Ave.,
represented a state-of-the-art approach to high school education in our
city. That version of Albany High, just the third since the city’s
system of public education began in the 19th century,
reflected the community’s shared vision for a new way to educate all
Now, as the school marks its ruby anniversary in
2013-14, the City School District of Albany is continuing its work with
the community to plan for a 21st century vision of public
high school education.
“I am energized by the opportunity we have as a community to re-imagine
high school education for our future generations,” said Superintendent
Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, Ph.D. “This is a rare opportunity and we are
fortunate to be able to work together as a community in that process.”
You can download a list of
Questions about the vision for a new or
renovated Albany High.
Driving the process is a shared understanding
throughout the community of the critical need to raise achievement for
all students and significantly increase Albany High’s graduation rate.
Under Dr. V’s leadership, the district is undergoing
a major academic reorganization, focused on aligning resources and staff
to support teachers and principals in their mission to help all students
reach their highest potential.
A new or fully renovated high school at the current location is another
important element in the district’s future plans. It would match the
modern elementary and middle schools serving all district students since
the successful completion of the facilities project at the start of this
“We know that new facilities alone are not the
answer, and we fully recognize that we must remain mindful of what our
community can afford,” said Board of Education President Rose
Brandon, Th.D. “But we cannot ignore the powerful message that the
learning environment communicates to students, and the strong impact it
can have on their educational outcomes in tandem with highly trained and
highly motivated staff.”
Process began with opportunities for public input
Beginning in the winter of 2012-13, the
City School District of Albany, in its partnership with the
community to develop a vision for the future of high school education in
our city, held numerous focus groups, workshops and community forums to
gather public input on what residents envision for the next generation
of Albany High School.
That included the
“Re-Imagining Albany High School Summit”
attended by nearly 100 community members June
25, 2013 (pictured above).
The summit continued the district's efforts to
consider options for renewing rebuilding Albany High. Participants, including students, parents and
community members, took part in interactive discussions about a variety
here to check out photos from the summit.
The summit followed an open town hall meeting June 10 at William S.
Hackett Middle School that provided about 70 participants an opportunity
to ask a wide range of questions and provide feedback. The process
continued with educational specification meetings Aug. 1 and Oct. 1.
Thank you to all of those who have participated, and stay tuned for more
opportunities to be involved in the process of re-imagining Albany High.
A community vision sought
After the May 2012 report of the ad hoc High School Facilities
Advisory Committee that studied future options for Albany High School,
the Board of Education approved CSArch and Turner Construction to provide leadership, educational
planning, support and technical assistance to continue the process
For the next 18 months, the district engaged the community in a
broad conversation about how the next-generation Albany High School can best serve all of the city's
students and advance the district's goal of eliminating the achievement
gap and raising achievement for all students.
held small-group focus sessions for more than 250 parents,
community members, students, staff and community leaders. The opportunities
designed to gather input on
the academic, social-emotional and extracurricular needs that will be
important for the district to consider as it plans for facilities that
will serve the city's high school students for decades to come.
to read more from Superintendent Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard,
Ph.D., regarding the process for engaging the community throughout the
process of planning for a new or renovated high school.
Board approves architectural, construction management partners
The City School
District of Albany Board of Education has hired
Turner Construction as
its architectural, engineering and construction management partners in
the process to re-imagine the future of Albany High School.
"I heard from community members throughout
my interview process, and have continued to hear in my first month on
the job, that our city is ready for a 'new' Albany High School,"
Superintendent Marguerite Vanden Wyngaard, Ph.D., said following the
board's approval of CS Arch and Turner on Oct. 18, 2012. "Exactly what that new
school will look like or how it could be designed are critical questions
that only can be answered after continuing our conversations with the
"The board's approval of CS Arch and
Turner Construction, two firms each with a wealth of experience in
helping communities build school facilities that meet the needs of their
students, is simply the next step in that process. We look forward to
hearing from our community about how the next generation of Albany High
School can best serve the needs of all of our students well into the
The district's High School Facilities Advisory Committee studied options for a
completely new or renovated Albany High during the winter and spring of
2012. The committee, made up of 38 representatives from the community,
focused on the options of renovating the current high school and
building a completely new high school campus.
You can download that report in .pdf format.
the process following the committee's May 17, 2012, report to the board, the district sent out a Request for
Proposals for the architectural, engineering and construction management
services during the summer and received six proposals by the Aug. 31
You can download the full RFP in .pdf
Transforming Albany High to
provide smaller learning communities
By September 2011,
High School had been transformed into four academies -- physically
smaller learning environments designed to help students feel connected,
involved and engaged.
offers electives tied to its own theme; all will offer the
same core classes in English, math, science and social studies. Students
will take their core courses within their own academy, but can take
advanced elective classes in other academies. For example, a student in
Innovation Academy -- which offers advanced electives in science and
technology -- will be able to take a playwriting class in the Discovery
Academy, which offers advanced English electives.
What's different: themes
Each of the four academies has a theme:
has up to 600 students, its own principal, four teams of teachers
and a "theme" coordinator. These smaller academies will offer more
demanding coursework and extra support for all students.
History behind the changes
decades ago, a comprehensive high school serving all students in the
City School District of Albany was the right plan at the right time.
Now, times have changed.
Reorganizing Albany High has been a top priority in recent years. The process
gained increased urgency in January 2010 when
the State Education Department identified Albany High as a
"persistently lowest-achieving" school
because of the school’s
lagging performance in math and English language arts (ELA).
A $7.5 million federal grant bolstered the transformation of
The district continues to work with state
education officials to gain financial support from the state for these