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Port Chester Students, Parents Rally Behind $80 Million School Renovations

Hundreds of students, parents and teachers turned out for a rally at Port Chester High School on Thursday in support of an upcoming $80 million bond for new construction at five schools. The vote is Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the middle school.
Hundreds of students, parents and teachers turned out for a rally at Port Chester High School on Thursday in support of an upcoming $80 million bond for new construction at five schools. The vote is Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the middle school. Photo Credit: Provided
A placard outside Port Chester High School reminds residents to vote on Tuesday for the $80 million schools' renovation bond. The projects are eligible for about 66 percent reimbursement in state aid.
A placard outside Port Chester High School reminds residents to vote on Tuesday for the $80 million schools' renovation bond. The projects are eligible for about 66 percent reimbursement in state aid. Photo Credit: Jon Craig
Port Chester Schools Superintendent Edward Kliszus gave an update last month on the proposed $80 million renovation of crowded, aging schools throughout the district. Tuesday's public vote runs from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Port Chester Middle School.
Port Chester Schools Superintendent Edward Kliszus gave an update last month on the proposed $80 million renovation of crowded, aging schools throughout the district. Tuesday's public vote runs from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Port Chester Middle School. Photo Credit: Jon Craig

This story has been updated.

PORT CHESTER, N.Y. -- Hundreds in Port Chester students, parents and teachers turned out Thursday evening for a rally in support of Tuesday's $80 million school bond vote.

The pro-vote pep rally was held at Port Chester High School, which would benefit from more than half the proposed new construction to alleviate overcrowding in instructional areas.

The bond money would pay for new athletic facilities, new classrooms at five schools and other capital improvements.

Port Chester taxpayers are being asked to approve the school renovation bond issue on Tuesday, March 28. The vote takes place from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Port Chester Middle School off Bowman Avenue in Rye Brook.

Residents defeated an earlier $41.5 million school renovation proposal in December 2015. The breakdown of spending on the newly-proposed projects includes almost $50 million at Port Chester High School, $15 million at John F. Kennedy Magnet School, nearly $12 million at King Street School, nearly $3 million at Park Avenue School and roughly $292,000 at Thomas A. Edison School.

The capital project plans were developed with the guidance of a Bond Advisory Council.The total cost of all additions, renovations and upgrades is $79,950,000.

The capital bond project is eligible to receive state reimbursement for two-thirds (or 66 percent) of allowable construction expenses

“The changes proposed by this capital bond project are crucial for us to be able to provide exceptional learning experiences for our current and future students,” said Superintendent of Schools Edward Kliszus. “If approved, the plan would allow us to offer more of the academic and extracurricular opportunities that not only lead to personal enrichment, but provide additional pathways to collegiate acceptances for students focused on all disciplines.”

If approved, the 24-year average annual cost to Port Chester taxpayers will be $75 per $100,000 of property assessment.

The capital project would add space to solve the districtwide problem of crowded classrooms –- an issue the district was cited for by the Middle States Accreditation Commission.

A huge benefit of this project is smaller class sizes which improve teacher-to-student ratio and allow for the type of tailored instruction that contributes to better academic achievement, test scores and graduation rates, according to school officials.

All of the district's school buildings are aging, with outdated heating, cooling and water systems as well as serious overcrowding. The student population at the middle and high schools has risen by more than 20 percent in the past seven years with continued growth forecast through 2020, according to district officials.

Space added by the capital project would also allow for added services to students with disabilities, and allow them full access to the mainstream curriculum. At the secondary level, it would provide more space for elective and honors classes, such as the International Baccalaureate program, to better prepare students for college and employment after graduation.

The capital project includes facility upgrades for athletics and the arts. Among these, the proposed new high school gymnasium would increase capacity for instruction, while bringing competition space up to New York State High School Association standards. This would enable the district to host state tournament and championship games. New full-size rehearsal spaces for the choral and band programs will make room for greater educational programming in the overused auditorium.

For more detailed information on the proposed capital project, including answers to frequently asked questions, visit www.portchesterschools.org .

An earlier school board meeting as well as an archived video of the Bond Advisory Council's presentation can be found by clicking here.

This is the second time district officials have tried to persuade local taxpayers to approve funds for the improvements.

Residents defeated a $41.5  million bond vote by a wide margin for the school district in December 2015.

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