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Niagara Wheatfield board updated on $11 million in improvements

The Niagara Wheatfield School Board got a progress report last week on the $11 million Greenway and capital improvement project.

Representatives from Wendel Duchscherer Architects & Engineers made the hourlong presentation to give new board members an overview and to update members who were serving when voters approved the project last September in a referendum.

Taxpayers will not shoulder any of the costs of the Greenway items, which include a fitness trail around the school campus, an outdoor classroom, an amphitheater, a nature trail and other recreation and ecological improvements.

Kerin Dumphrey, the district's business executive, said the State Power Authority deposits $360,000 a year in an escrow account for that work. The account now has accumulated $1.45 million of the $6.09 million needed for those projects, he said.

On a home valued at $100,000, the $4.99 million in health and safety improvements will cost taxpayers an average of $21.41 a year for four years, Dumphrey explained.

Dave Kenyon, Wendel project manager, said new gym floors in Errick Road and Colonial Village elementary schools are scheduled for completion in early fall. Work also will begin on replacing the roof at the senior high school. Plans initially called for repairing the current roof, but with so many spots to fix, he said, a new roof was recommended.

Plans for the project's larger, second phase are expected to go the state Education Department next month for approval. It involves renovating the computer server room at the senior high school and replacing the track surface and installing new bleachers, press box, locker rooms, concession stands, restrooms and storage facilities at the stadium. It also includes the nature trail and confidence course, outdoor classroom, playground, security cameras and a parking lot with lighting.

Other parts of the project call for drainage improvements at Errick Road, interior renovations at West Street and replacement of front steps, ramp and doors at Edward Town Middle School. The steps and ramp will be heated with boiler plates to melt snow and ice, he said.

Colonial Village will undergo the most work; its parking lot will be redesigned and the main office will be moved.

Classrooms in all schools will be outfitted with computer projectors.

Most of the work in Phase 2 should be completed before school begins next year, Kenyon said. The third phase will involve installing rain gardens, windmills, solar panels, composting and other ecology-related items.

In another matter, the board discussed restoring two positions eliminated during budget deliberations.

Rick Wrazin, a physical education teacher who was transferred from the senior high school to duties at two elementary schools, said his calculations showed that the move left four teachers to handle 1,351 students in gym classes, which could raise safety issues. He gave each board member a detailed outline of the situation with class numbers.

Superintendent Carl Militello advised the board that, if it continued to bring teachers back, it would return to the original budget and not save money. He said he would review the shift once student numbers and schedules are in.

He did appear to support reinstating a math coordinator. Steve Sabo, board president, said the district has learned that the position could be funded with staff development money and end up saving about $20,000.

Militello said he would prepare a report on how the move would affect other areas so the position could be put back before school begins.

email: niagaranews@buffnews.com