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Red Hook's capital improvement proposal: See the details

Red Hook's capital improvement proposal: See the details
Red Hook Central School District
A rendering of Red Hook's proposed artificial athletic field.

The space between Red Hook High School and Linden Avenue Middle School is not just a football field.

It’s not just a track. It’s not just a lacrosse field.

“It’s a classroom,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Janet Warden said. “It should be as safe and accessible as any other classroom in the school district.” 

Years of use have rendered the main athletic field shared by the Red Hook Central School District’s secondary schools less than safe and inaccessible to some of the student population. The field is uneven, sloped lower than the surrounding track. The ground itself has become compact, unforgiving and unable to drain rainfall adequately.

Similarly, decades of use have battered the floor inside the high school’s gymnasium, original to its 1963 opening, and the original bleachers inside the gym are decades out of compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The district aims to remedy those safety and accessibility concerns and others with Proposition No. 3 on the May 21 ballot.

The $14.95 million capital improvement proposal would improve the lighting, air conditioning and safety of the schools. It also includes a broad renovation of the high school’s gymnasium and the installation of a multipurpose educational and athletic artificial turf field, two spaces used not only by the athletes on the district’s sports teams but also each student in physical education classes. The upgrades, including the installation of field lighting, would also increase the availability of the space to community organizations.

"The projects slated for this proposition would increase the safety and access of our facilities for our students and members of the community,” Warden said. “A new athletic field would expand on opportunities for our teams, physical education classes and local sports organizations, while utilizing recyclable materials to limit environmental impact." 

The proposition includes:

  • New LED lighting for Red Hook High School and Mill Road elementary school

  • Expanding and upgrading the air conditioning at Mill Road

  • Bolstering the boiler system at Linden Avenue Middle School

  • Expanding ease of access to the lockdown system in each school

  • Repairs to the four front columns of the Linden Avenue building

A rendering of Red Hook's proposed gymnasium renovation.

The lighting upgrades are projected to save $30,486 annually at the middle school and $22,349 at the high school, with the savings projected to pay for the cost of the upgrades in six and eight years, respectively.

While there is already a system in place which allows school staff to initiate a lockdown in the event it is believed to be needed, the expanded lockdown system would include push buttons in a handful of strategic locations around each building. The change would increase the chances of a potentially dangerous situation being reported and decrease the time it takes to alert the rest of the school.

“It would be an additional means of having an employee have the ability to place the building into lockdown if they thought they saw the need,” said Bruce Martin, Assistant Superintendent for Business, “and presumably technologically simpler and more reliable.”

The proposition also includes:

  • Installation of a multipurpose educational and athletic field

  • Installation of new field lighting

  • Resurfacing of the outdoor track, which is cracked and last resurfaced in 2010

  • Improvements to the other athletic fields’ drainage system

  • New fencing for the track and multipurpose field

  • Replacement of the high school’s gymnasium bleachers and wall padding, and renovation of its floor

The artificial turf field would be projected to last roughly 15 years, though the infrastructure put in place underneath the turf, which includes cushioning and a drainage system, is expected to last decades. It would be installed level to the track, increasing accessibility and safety.

While the district has surveyed a number of turf vendors and products, it cannot begin the bidding process and finalize which turf would be installed until after the proposition is passed. However, the district has “enough information to get an idea of what we’re looking for,” administrator Dr. Erin Hayes said, which is a product that is safer for students from an injury perspective and as advanced as possible in the area of environmental sustainability. District officials have looked at products constructed mainly of recycled materials, and include recyclable turf with reusable infill, the substance that acts as the substitute for dirt between the blades of artificial grass.

“It’s a Board of Education goal to be environmentally conscious,” Hayes said. “It’s something we weave into all of our projects.”

The field would be lined for use by multiple outdoor sports, including soccer, football, lacrosse, field hockey, and surrounded by the track. Tom Cassata, director of athletics, noted the existing field is not big enough for soccer games because of the need for drainage grates between the field and track.

While Cassata said he is “a huge fan of grass fields,” it’s near-impossible for a high school staff to maintain a grass field, given how much each field is used by students in classes and on teams. In the state they are in, games and practices often have to be canceled due to flooding after rainfall.

“Our fields are very hard. That’s a concern,” he said. “We’ve done services to it. Extensive aerating, things like that. Over time, it’s hard to fix a problem under two feet of compact dirt.”

An analysis of typical expenses found while the estimated installation cost of a multipurpose artificial field is higher than that of a new natural field – roughly $2.5 million compared to $1.875 million – the annual maintenance cost is roughly $58,000 less per year, which would make an artificial field slightly less expensive at the end of the 15-year lifespan. 

The analysis also showed students could get more than twice as many hours of use out of an artificial field with lighting each year, 3,600 hours versus 1,600, as artificial surfaces are often more likely to be usable in inclement weather and can withstand heavier use.

The addition of the field lighting would not only expand the time on which teams can be scheduled to use the field, but provide more flexibility for scheduling morning or evening practices on especially hot days. 

Cassata said the district’s teams are often at a competitive disadvantage practicing on grass when artificial surfaces are almost uniformly used for postseason games.

“The game is much faster, it’s very different,” Cassata said, calling the improvements a “necessity” rather than a “luxury” for students. “Having that field, we can run more practices, longer, later if we have lights, when we have rain we can play games, we don’t have to move games.”

Inside, the gym would not only receive a new floor and bleachers that are accessible to all students and fans, but the stage area on the south end of the court would be removed and replaced with more seating, creating a safer situation for the players on the court who previously may collide with the stage’s knee wall.

Like the grass field outside, the gym floor has been repaired often over six decades. By Cassata’s count, there are 175 places where it is visible that nails were added to keep floorboards down.

Cassata said the bleachers were and remain grandfathered in after the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. But, he noted that doesn’t mean the bleachers were ever suitable enough for the school population.

“We need to make sure that all of our facilities are accessible to every student,” Hayes said. “That’s part of our improvement process and a lens through which we look at everything.”