The Chester Union Free School District and the Chester community need to make a decision regarding the future of the Maple Avenue school building. To find the best solution, the District is fully committed to a process that:
- Explores all available options
- Provides transparency, and
- Involves the community
In 2020, after the stadium referendum failed, the building was “mothballed.” Gas, water and HVAC have all been decommissioned, leaving only electricty for lighting and an active fire alarm system. Roof leaks and broken windows have been repaired. However, buildings that are mothballed cannot remain in that state indefinitely, because deterioration will continue.
The July 3 storm, which peeled back the roof and exposed the building to the elements, has resulted in dangerous conditions inside the building. The damage to the roof from the storm was a result of high wind causing a failure of the materials and roofing system, not maintenance or a lack of maintenance. The failure allowed large amounts of rain to enter the building. The building is not climate controlled. Mold is now growing on the walls, ceilings, floors and other structural materials. The building also contains materials, such as layers of flooring and insulation, which contain asbestos that has now become “friable,” meaning it can easily crumble or become airborne. Both pose an immediate health risk and need to be abated.
The district’s insurer, New York Schools Insurance Reciprocal, has approved and will pay for all immediate work, such as restoration of damage, replacing floors, walls and ceilings, etc… It will also pay for the cost of damaged furniture and materials stored in the building. The district is waiting on a third-party review of the abatement estimates before proceeding with any work.
To come to the best decision for the community and students in the district, the district will gather input from its administrative team, Parent Advisory Panel, a newly created Maple Avenue Task Force, and, most importantly, the community at large. The community will have the opportunity to provide their thoughts in both a community survey and community forums.
The district will begin with a Parent Advisory Panel meeting where four representatives – from from PK-2, 3-5, 6-8, and 9-12 – will be chosen to join the Maple Avenue Task Force. In addition, the Board of Education will invite these groups, and possibly others, to participate in this task force:
- Chester Kiwanis
- Chester alumni
- Chester Historical Society
- Town of Chester
- Village of Chester
- Local businesses near Maple Avenue
Additional representatives, such as residents near Maple Avenue, may be considered as well as those recommended by the Board of Education. This group will discuss the building’s challenges, its historical significance, its potential future uses and opportunities, and the costs of various options.
For those not on the Parent Advisory Panel or the Maple Avenue Task Force, we are confident that your voice will be heard as well. There will be venues for the community to give their input to the district and the task force through feedback in a community survey and in-person community forums.
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