The Niagara Falls School Board's long-awaited, $17.2 million capital improvement project -- largely involving the installation of new technology in the schools -- should get under way sometime in late April.
The work is expected to be done in 10 months.
Interim Superintendent Cynthia A. Bianco told the School Board last week that the state Education Department approved all aspects of the project about two weeks ago, giving the district the go-ahead to seek bids on the work.
Part of the project will be financed with more than $6.2 million in state Expanding Our Children's Education and Learning funds. The rest will be borrowed and paid for with state building aid over a 15-year period.
More than half of the $13 million in actual construction work -- about $7.8 million -- involves technology. The other $4.2 million covers such costs as architectural and legal fees, she said.
The project, Bianco said, involves purchasing and installing 416 interactive white boards in classrooms across the district so every teacher has a large computerized board to help students understand the subject matter. A white board can connect to the Internet to complement lessons.
Bianco said Niagara Street Elementary School, the district's newest, is the only city school with a white board in all 36 classrooms.
"I think we have two in each preparatory school [LaSalle and Gaskill], and we have one or two at Niagara Falls High School. The project calls for having one installed in every classroom in the district that doesn't have one," she said.
Niagara Street Principal Paulette Pierce has said the white boards have proved to be very effective teaching tools.
Bianco said a good portion of the outlays would go to the electrical wiring required to power the interactive boards.
Other projects include a new roof on the Central Office Building, 630 66th St., at an estimated cost of $1.2 million, and $800,000 for the complete renovation of the dilapidated kitchen in Gaskill Preparatory School, she said.
About $3 million will be spent on installing bus loops at every school except Niagara Falls High School and Niagara Street Elementary School.
Bianco said bus loops and expanding parking lots are needed to separate bus traffic and student drop-off and pick-up locations from other forms of vehicle traffic, as a safety measure. The project also calls for added parking at most schools.
School officials said they expect the project to go out to bid within the next four weeks and to award construction contracts April 2.
The board expects to hire a field manager to oversee the project Feb. 19 and to go out to bid to insure the project March 2.