NORTH SALEM, N.Y. - North Salem schools are more accessible to people with special needs, after the school district remodeled its facilities over the summer.
The renovations, part of the district’s five-year plan, included widening bathroom doors, restructuring stalls and installing sinks. Under federal requirements, the facilities meet the Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
School board president Deborah D’Agostino said the facilities are used not only by faculty and students, but by families and visitors. Making facilities accessible provides an educational opportunity so students can learn to respect people with different needs.
“In the long run, it benefits our community,” D’Agostino said. “It benefits grandmas and grandpas who come to see a school play and need walkers and wheelchairs; it benefits our children to be able to see people moving around and respect people with disabilities.”
Over the years, the district has made many similar improvements, including installing accessible entrances, designating handicapped parking and making curb cuts. D’Agostino said the largest project is the installation of an accessible path from the North Salem Middle School/High School to Tompkins Field, which was finished last summer.
Gary Green, director of school facilities and transportation, said the five-year plan aims to maintain safe school buildings that meet the ever-changing needs of the community.
At the middle school/high school, a storage room was built next to the baseball field, while a new stage floor, a donation from North Salem’s International Thespian Society, was installed in the auditorium.
Additionally, two computer labs were replaced by a physics classroom and a STEM classroom. All the floors in the classrooms and hallways were stripped and waxed, and new paint was applied throughout the buildings.
The upgrades are being paid for with a $12.7 million bond that voters approved in 2015. With that bond, D’Agostino said, the district has repaired roofs, replaced air conditioners and heating equipment and enlarged its septic system.
While the school board members were proud of the progress, some parents look to set a higher bar.
Carol Hughes demanded cleaner bathrooms at the Sept. 11 Board of Education meeting. She suggested that the board members should pay more attention to details.
“I don’t want you to just walk and see the projects that were done. I want you to go to the areas where the work wasn’t done,” Hughes said.
That sentiment was echoed by Marcy Miller, who asked the board to fix such things as basketball hoops and lockers.
“Fix the little things, because they can make a big difference,” Miller wrote in a follow-up email.
D’Agostino said since the previous five-year plan is coming to an end this year, the district looks to include parking, paving and field improvements in the next one.
“We’ve accomplished a lot. The school is a nicer place than it was five years ago,” D’Agostino said. “But that’s not to say we don’t have more to do.”
The facilities committee will meet monthly to discuss facility needs and work on the new five-year plan.