Voters approve Poughkeepsie’s $98M school project


The Poughkeepsie City School District is set to undergo a major reconstruction that will bring it into the 21st century. 

Voters Tuesday supported two capital improvement propositions, one costing $48.5 million and the other totaling $98.79 million. The measures included infrastructure improvements the district says will remedy a “dire” situation. 

Superintendent Eric Jay Rosser said in a Wednesday press release that the district’s next step will be to solicit proposals from architectural and construction firms, after which they would be hired to begin the work. On a parallel track, the district will seek state Department of Education approvals for the plans.

Poughkeepsie voters to decide on $98M schools project before general election

What to know about Poughkeepsie’s $98M school project

“We’re looking for construction to start as soon as this upcoming summer,” Rosser said. The project will begin with work on roofs and “other critical infrastructure and major building components coming first.”

Proposition One, the $48.25 million plan, focused on building infrastructure upgrades for safety and security. Proposition Two, at $98.79 million, included all of the first proposition’s plans as well as major structural remodeling for multiple schools and an overhaul of instructional programs. For the work in Proposition Two to be implemented, Proposition One had to pass. 

As for the impact on wallets, an average homeowner, with a house valued at $100,000, would likely pay an extra $56 a year with a STAR exemption or $88 without it under the second proposition, according to the district.  

Proposition One included new security entrances, bathroom replacements, boiler replacements and roof restorations at each building. Other fixes include heating system repairs at Morse Elementary, ceiling repairs at Krieger Elementary, plumbing fixes at Poughkeepsie Middle School, and locker room renovations at the high school. The cost is $48,250,000, with 95% of the project qualifying for state aid.

Among other projects, Proposition Two included a complete renovation to the interior and exterior of Warring Elementary School, new cafeterias at Poughkeepsie Middle School and Smith Early Learning Center, and instructional and technological improvements. The cost is $98,791,306 with 70 % of the project qualifying for state aid. 

HVAC improvements are a major part of both plans, with system upgrades now set for Poughkeepsie High School, Smith Early Learning Center, Clinton Elementary and Warring Elementary.

“This is great for our kids, our staff and our community,” Rosser said in his statement. “The community supported both propositions to propel PCSD schools into the 21st century, meeting the standards of educational buildings equal to schools in our surrounding area and the state.” 

Vote tallies were scheduled to be announced at the Board of Education’s meeting Wednesday night, too late for the Journal’s print deadline. 

On Tuesday evening, the polls had a slow stream of voters make their way through. At Warring Elementary School, where residents of Wards 1,3 and 5 went to cast their ballots, poll worker Cassandra Ruffin said she was a bit disappointed by the turnout. 

“I was hoping to see more people coming out, but we still have some time,” she said around 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday. “When people are concerned about their taxes or have to pay more you see people come out…With so many things going on with the pandemic, it seems that people are just not as focused on this.”

At Poughkeepsie Middle School, the polling site for Wards 6 and 7, Election Inspector Kanell Harvard saw a “great turnout” with lots of parents bringing in their children ahead of the presidential election on Nov. 3. 

“A lot of parents are bringing their children in, so their children can be aware of the voting process,” Harvard said. “This year a lot of the parents are informed, so there are very few questions this time around with more educated voters.”

Harvard sat behind a desk with social distance markings on the floor to instruct residents where to stand. Each table of poll inspectors was equipped with cleaning supplies and  cups for clean and used pens, to be wiped down after each use.

At the polls on Tuesday night, many voters said they felt improvements to the district were much overdue. 

Natasha Harvey, a poll worker and alumni of the district, said she voted for proposition two with the hopes for more instructional and community based programs. 

“I understand about the infrastructure and security stuff, they need to upgrade the bathrooms in the schools….it’s the same water fountains as when I went to school here,” Harvey said. “They need to have more programs and things for the kids, people in the area need to see where the money is going.”

Jason Cruz, of Ward 3, said he was disappointed by the lack of communication leading up to the vote. He said the postcard to inform him of the project didn’t make it to his house until Tuesday, which didn’t give him a sufficient amount time to research the vote thoroughly. While Cruz declined to share which proposition he chose to vote for, the Poughkeepsie father said he hoped his vote would help the district succeed. 

“I think they are good, the proposition themselves are good…we figured we are voting because whatever happens to the property value of our home will be contingent on what the school system is like,” Cruz said, noting that his children went to private schools. “If people see good in the school system they will see good in the area.”

Sonya McLaurin, a longtime resident and daycare owner in the area, said she supported investing in the district. She voted in favor of both propositions.

“I had my kids come through the Poughkeepsie school system, and I am around kids growing up in the system, and I have in interest in the growth of the school and the education,” McLaurin said. “What they proposed, it’s all important, we definitely need improvement in all areas…we don’t want to turn away anything that is before us.” 

Katelyn Cordero: [email protected]; 845-437-4870; Twitter: @KatelynCordero. 

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