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Democrat Photo by Dan Hust

HELPING TO BREAK ground on the new Sullivan West High School in Lake Huntington on Saturday were, from the left, former property owner Bill Boucher, board members Bill Erdman, Jerry Triolo, Rich Sandler and Donna Sauer-Jones, Superintendent Michael Johndrow, and board members Jeff Nober, Angela Daley, Rick Lander, K.C. Garn and Carol Nearing.

High School on Track
To 2002 Completion

By Dan Hust
LAKE HUNTINGTON — The Sullivan West Central School District merger took another step toward completion Saturday with an event long awaited by officials, board members and residents.
And as the golden shovels bit into a pile of dirt specially-made for the ceremony, there were as many members of the public as members of the press taking photos of the helmeted officials – a fact not lost on Superintendent Michael Johndrow.
“It’s a great day!” he said to the 100 or so people gathered to watch the groundbreaking ceremony of the new Sullivan West High School in Lake Huntington. “I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am to be standing here today.”
His words were met by cheers from the crowd underneath a tent set up near where the majority of the excavation and construction will occur to create the 133,000-square-foot building slated to become the centerpiece of the merger of the Narrowsburg, Jeffersonville-Youngsville and Delaware Valley central schools.
“This is the first merger of more than two school districts in the past 20 years in New York State,” remarked BOCES Superintendent Martin Handler, the state education commissioner’s local representative and the former interim superintendent during SW’s first few months as a merged district. “And the three communities here in Sullivan West have done a remarkable job . . . in coming together to build this school district.”
“The need for a new, centrally located high school was a vision of many people from the three former school districts. The reason the communities of Narrowsburg, Jeffersonville-Youngsville and Delaware Valley formed this partnership was to improve the facilities and to expand the academic opportunities available to all our children,” said Board President Carol Nearing in her remarks. “This union represents our commitment to work together as a truly unified school community – one that will prepare our students for future success.”
Though hot and humid, the ominous clouds kept the sun from beating down on participants, and forecasted thundershowers held off until the evening. Coupled with musical selections by the Sullivan West Band, several attendees agreed that the event couldn’t have gone much better.
“This is for all of us,” said board member Donna Sauer-Jones. “The majority of the people in this district believe that a centrally located high school will give optimal educational opportunities for everyone.”
“We did it for the kids,” added fellow member Angela Daley. “This is a beautiful piece of land.”
And, said Johndrow, it took many years of hard work on the part of people across the district to make it a reality.
“Many individuals, especially the board, have spent incredible amounts of time working on this,” he explained.
Now, people are looking forward to the next event, said Handler: the ribboncutting of the new school, slated to open next year. (Sitework will begin next week, said Johndrow.)
But the full magnitude of the high school may not even sink in then, according to former property owner Bill Boucher, who called Saturday’s ceremony a “wonderful, wonderful day.”
“It’s something I think we won’t truly appreciate until five years from now,” he said.

Groundbreaking Features
Unexpected Visitors

By Dan Hust
LAKE HUNTINGTON — June 19, 2001 – Although the bulk of attendees were merger and high school advocates, longtime merger opponents Tony Wayne and Noel van Swol also showed up at the Sullivan West High School groundbreaking on Saturday in Lake Huntington.
However, their presence was a peaceful one, as a planned protest of the site never materialized. Wayne, a resident of Fremont Center and a father of Sullivan West students, said it was called off due to concerns over forcing children to cross a picket line.
“We knew we shouldn’t do it,” he said.
Wayne, who believes the site is contaminated, said he did not stay for the entire ceremony but noted that the groundbreaking was not on school property but on a parcel owned by Bill Boucher (who donated 48 acres to the school for the purpose of the high school several years ago).
SW Superintendent Michael Johndrow indicated that might actually be the case, saying that the ceremony was conducted in the approximate area of the future school’s driveway – a very narrow slice of the property in that location. However, he added that Boucher is allowing the district’s construction management firm, Turner Construction Company, to keep its field office trailer on his property free of charge and that Boucher had no problem with any potential foot traffic on his property that day.
Wayne also said that he wasn’t sure what had happened to site soil samples he had sent to NYC, but they have not yet been sent back. Still, he feels his point is being made that there are enough dangers on the site to warrant choosing another one.
“It’s possible people are starting to see it isn’t just me,” he said.
As for van Swol, who hails from Long Eddy but is employed in the educational system in Syracuse, he ended up arguing heatedly with Turner Construction Company’s Steve Lundgren, who was at the end of a trail on Saturday giving ceremony attendees a brief synopsis of what would be built where.
According to both men, van Swol attempted to step over a yellow ribbon marking the boundary of the walking trail. Lundgren said he asked van Swol to return due to safety and crowd control issues, and an argument ensued over van Swol’s ability to walk the site on his own.
“This should be open to the public,” he said afterwards. “To me, it’s evidence they’re hiding something.”
Lundgren later apologized for his heated remarks, but that degenerated into another round of arguments, joined by board member Rick Lander, who told van Swol that unsupervised access to the site is a liability issue.
And Johndrow said yesterday that van Swol, like the rest of the general public, is welcome to tour the entire site if he sets up a time in advance with Johndrow.
Van Swol, however, reiterated his claim that “this is the worst site they could possibly pick,” stating that garbage on top of the ground “are surface indications of what’s underneath.”
No concrete data has yet come forth on contamination of the site, but van Swol – who said “a good lawyer” could work out the potentially expensive and complex logistics of changing the high school’s location – said the current trash of bedframes, paint cans and the like are worrisome enough.
“You can never be sure you removed all the garbage,” he remarked. “That’s a cloud that will continually hang over this district.”

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