Unatego building project underway

Feb. 8—The Unatego Middle/High School is undergoing extensive renovations that should be complete by September 2025.

Unatego Central School District Superintendent David Richards discussed the project and gave a tour of the building Thursday morning, Feb. 8. Richards said the project is a little behind schedule because the district submitted its plans to the state Education Department later than it had planned and the state Education Department had several plans submitted at once and was backlogged, so it took longer for state approval.

District residents approved the $27.695 million project in 2021. "We needed to take care of our aging structures, which were not sufficient to meet the needs of education in the 21st century," he said.

The project updated the middle/high school campus, the elementary school and bus garage, with a major focus on energy projects. "Our heating system was from 1967," he said. "It was either too hot or too cold in the rooms."

The boilers "had a 55% efficiency rate," he said. The boilers were replaced with propane furnaces that are between 90% and 95% efficient.

The new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system in the middle/high school building will provide air conditioning for the first time. "There are several rooms that get very hot in the spring and fall," he said. Temperatures can reach between 88 and 90 degrees, which is well above the optimum 72 degrees. Each room will get a digital thermostat that will also help to regulate the heating or cooling in each room.

Along the way, the district was able to obtain a $2.8 million energy performance contract, which will be paid for by energy savings within 7.5 years, he said.

In addition to a new heating and cooling system, the middle/high school will receive a new renovated auditorium, locker rooms and corrective gym; new hallways, lighting upgrades, asbestos abatement, replace the roof, new furniture, a school-based health center and new playing fields, Richards said.

Improvements to the elementary school are replacing lead pipes and fixtures, upgrading the septic system to comply with state Department of Environmental Conservation requirements, providing an area of refuge in two stairways and replacing the clocks and communication system in the building, information on the school's website said.

Improvements to the bus garage are replacing the 1951 bus lift and creating an American with Disabilities Act compliant bathroom, the website said.

The district was able to complete drainage work on the baseball and softball fields so they didn't need to install artificial turf fields there. The money the district saved will allow the district to replace the current football field with a multi-use artificial turf field for the football and soccer teams.

Richards said he was a student teacher at the middle/high school in 1994 and "not whole lot had changed" at the school when he was hired as the superintendent 10 years ago. He said it will be nice to see the new building.

While walking through the building, Richards said the auditorium and stage should be completed before the end of March, just in time for a stage production to be held. The auditorium will get new lighting, sound system, walls, floor, ceiling, stage and heating/air conditioning. The seats were salvaged and will be reinstalled once the floor is done.

Each locker room includes new lockers, shower and bathroom facilities and a gender-neutral changing room, which is required by state law, he said. The corrective gym, where the wrestling team practices, will get new mats, lighting and padded walls.

"It'll be nice when it's done," he said.

Vicky Klukkert, staff writer, can be reached at vklukkert@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7221.