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Indian River may build new elementary school, solar field

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PHILADELPHIA — Indian River Central School District may have several years’ worth of projects ahead.

At the Board of Education meeting Thursday, Business Manager James R. Koch said that in addition to the solar and wind projects being considered, the district may have to build another primary school or add up to 12 classrooms to an existing school to prepare for a possible surge in enrollment in the next two years.

“We have space, so we didn’t look to buy new land,” Mr. Koch said.

He said he expects the enrollment to spike to 5,200 by September 2016 — nearly 1,000 more students than are currently enrolled. If Fort Drum announces an expansion, a project referendum will go forward this fall or winter, and the project design will be completed and the district will seek state Education Department approval by the end of next year. Construction would start in spring 2015.

The downside of building a new primary school, which likely would be on Indian River Intermediate or Calcium Primary property, is that the project would be eligible for less than 50 percent state aid; only classroom space is eligible for state aid.

About $2 million worth of site work would have to be done if the school were to be built on Calcium Primary’s property because the land is mostly solid rock.

“It is more centrally located,” Mr. Koch said. “It’s where the growth is.”

The entrance would be reworked, parking space would be added and a new playground would be installed. If approved, a 308-foot, $2,542,000 wind turbine would be built behind the school.

Board member Peter D. Shue said the district Buildings and Grounds Committee met with Fort Drum and LeRay representatives about the possible turbine. He said their concerns were contentious in some cases.

“We thought to put wind power on the back burner until we have some better technology,” Mr. Shue said.

The intermediate school, which could be the site of a $1,850,000 solar field, might have sewer or water pressure issues if another facility is built there, Mr. Shue said. Additionally, a cafeteria expansion there is likely, regardless of where a new building is located. He said there is enough classroom space there to handle the increase in intermediate students.

Mr. Koch said the solar panels likely will be U.S.-made. They are initially slightly more expensive than panels made overseas, he said.

If board members decide against building a new school, Evans Mills Primary could have 10 to 12 classrooms added. However, Mr. Koch said, other work would have to be done to adjust for the increase in the number of students.

“The cafeteria can’t handle it,” he said.

Other considerations of a possible capital expansion include additional security cameras and artificial turf for the athletic fields.

The board agreed to participate in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge, which states the entity will be 20 percent more energy efficient by 2020.

“It’s going to be a very interesting couple of years,” Superintendent James Kettrick said.

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