With Passing of School Bond, District Puts All its Projects in a Row
By Robin Jovanovich
School’s out for the summer, and the acrimony between the pro-bond group and the better-bond faction has faded quickly since June 11, when voters in the Rye City School District came out in high numbers and approved all three of the propositions in the bond referendum. The first bond, which failed by a mere ten votes on March 12, is a distant memory.
While Proposition 1 ($70.8 million for critical infrastructure) passed by 172 votes, the margin of victory for Proposition 2 ($9.1 for educational improvements) was just 26 votes. But they passed, and the School Board is moving forward with design plans and applications to the State Education Department. Proposition 3 (establishment of a Capital Reserve Fund) garnered the most votes with 58 percent voting in favor; the vote was 2,438 vs. 1,756.
Superintendent Dr. Eric Byrne, who spoke to groups, large and small, throughout the community for several months, making a strong case for extensive renovations, a new turf field, an updated Performing Arts Center, removal of the trailers at Midland and Osborn schools, and classroom additions to both schools, is enjoying Act II.
In a phone interview this week, Dr. Byrne said he was gratified “by the number of community members who came out to learn, ask questions.” He continued, “And with the second bond vote we had the opportunity to reach a wider audience. It was helpful to hear all the perspectives on the plans.”
The fact that 4,246 voters showed up at the polls in June, versus 2,950 in March, was significant. “It’s a tell-tale sign that a tremendous number were engaged this time around.”
In the past three weeks, Dr. Byrne and members of the School Board have met with the architects and engineers. A new turf field is a top priority and plans will be sent to Albany in the next few weeks, he reported.
He’s brought the school community closer together by inviting students, teachers, and administrators to work collaboratively on the interior redesign of the Performing Arts Center. “We’ve received a great response to the call for a ‘design team’ approach,” he said.
When we inquired about the timetable for building renovations and additions, Dr. Byrne said that once the architectural drawings and building plans are complete, they will be sent to the State Education Department. The approval process can take from 38 to 42 weeks. “There is no way to fast-track them.”
Additional security is also a top priority. Dr. Byrne said that having brought in a full-time security manager earlier this year and having received funding from the Smart School Bond Act, “in great part due to the assistance of Assemblyman Steve Otis”, which has enabled the District to install new wiring, that they are in safer shape.
In a letter to the community, Dr. Byrne said they will keep everyone informed on the progress through the School District website, www.ryeschools.org.