HINSDALE, NY –  The Hinsdale Central School District recently introduced its capital project, a $6.8 million plan to expand Hinsdale's footprint and realize the goal of becoming a premier rural school district by 2020.  

The proposed plan, to be executed from 2017-2019, would include the purchase of nearly 14 acres of property adjacent to the school, the creation of an athletic complex and nature study area and renovations to existing facilities. An informational session on the project will be held Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. in the upper gym of the school on Main Street.

Discussions to acquire the 13.89-acre parcel of land began in August and September of last year. Acquisition of the property would enable Hinsdale to expand and begin execution of the project, according to Superintendent Larry Ljungberg.  

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The land includes both field areas and a small pond/wetland -- areas that would "extend the learning potential of all our students relating to the Common Core Learning Standards in Science" and allow students to undergo conditioning programs for sports, Ljungberg said.  

"In the field area immediately adjacent to the existing school boundary, we would create a new multi-purpose athletic field with a six lane rubber track, sod field, fencing, sound system, lighting, official’s stand, dugouts, scoreboard, aluminum grandstand, new concession stand with toilets, a roofed pavilion by the small pond and partially elevated walkway from the track area to the pavilion," Ljungberg added.

Plans also include establishing a winter sledding area open to the public, the superintendent said.  

The total cost of the land purchase and athletic complex construction would be approximately $2.7 million. Ljungberg said officials have told him that aid from New York State would cover 68 percent of building improvements and construction of the nature study area and athletic complex.

Renovations to existing facilities would include security upgrades; improvements to the gyms including refinished floors and air conditioning, and additions such as a salad bar in the cafeteria. The bus garage would be improved with state aid covering 95 percent of the cost, officials have told the superintendent.

"All of this will support the five areas of our strategic plan, which are academic high achievement, creating a connected community, increasing student engagement, risk management and safety and fiscal stewardship," Ljungberg said.  

The district, once home to approximately 600 students from pre-K to 12th grade, has seen decreasing enrollment in recent years. About 450 students were enrolled for the 2016-2017 school year. Ljungberg said he hopes the proposed improvements will keep families in the district and persuade parents outside the district to enroll their students at Hinsdale and added his goal is to consistently enroll around 500 students.  

Joe Fidurko, a Hinsdale resident, spoke out against the proposal on the Hinsdale Central School District's Facebook page.  

"The population cannot support it," Fidurko said. "It's not about bringing kids back to HCS, it's about bringing jobs and families back to the area. It's very sad, but HCS needs to close." 

The average annual cost increase to taxpayers with $100,000 homes who are enrolled in the New York State School Tax Relief  Program (STAR) would be $70. For those in the Senior STAR program, the increase would be $35, Ljungberg said. 

The official capital project vote will be held  April 4 from noon to 8 p.m. in the athletic entrance of the lower gym.