By Susan Campriello
CATSKILL - The 2009-10 school year got underway last week in Catskill, but the year was officially kicked-off Sunday with the Catskill Central School District’s annual “Parents, Partners and Pancakes” event. This year, the breakfast and outdoor petting zoo ended with a ribbon cutting in the High School library and media center to officially mark completion of ongoing construction and renovation work at the Catskill middle and high schools.
The more than $33 million project was approved through two $16.7 million referendum votes, one in 2005 and a second in 2009 and includes work on the media center, special education classrooms and a new entranceway. New guidance offices and a cafeteria in the Middle School as well as technological upgrades in the schools were also included in the project.
The last phase of the project, which includes work on a fitness center and playing fields as well as installation of new lockers in the High School, will begin later this year, District Superintendent Dr. Kathleen Farrell said.
Farrell noted that the “labor of love” cost roughly as much as the district’s annual operating budget.
She announced that the 2005 referendum brought only a 27-cent per $1,000 tax impact on district residents. The second brought no impact, she said.
“That is a huge, huge accomplishment and compliment for the community,” she said.
Farrell thanked the volunteers who flipped pancakes earlier in the day. She also thanked her schools’ students for living with construction without complaint and past Board of Education members who had worked to realize the project.
Sen. James L. Seward, R,C,I-Oneonta, recognized former Board President James Garafalo who, Seward said, led the charge to pass each referendum.
“This is a wonderful legacy to your leadership,” Seward told Garafalo while awarding him a special citation from the State Legislature.
Garafalo, who served on the board for 21 years and was the board president in both 2005 and part of 2009, was not reelected to the board this spring.
Seward commended the district for embarking on the project to upgrade the facility to match the quality of the school system.
He said taxpayers stepped up to the plate in each referendum and decided to invest in the district’s future.
Seward said the project fit with the state’s Expanding our Children’s Education (EXCEL) aid program designed to minimize the effect of capital projects on local taxpayers.
At the end of the ceremony, Seward and Garafalo held a pair of oversized scissors to a red ribbon stretched across two bookshelves in the library while the ribbon was cut by Catskill High School seniors Joseph DiStefano and Nicole Lacy who stood arm-in-arm.