By Dan Hust
JEFFERSONVILLE October 11, 2002 Sullivan Wests twice-monthly board meeting started out with a bang last Thursday evening (October 3) in Callicoon, and the effects of the ensuing discussion continue to reverberate.
That day, the state education department put a stop work order on the renovations at the districts Jeffersonville campus.
And Brenda Monahan, the former board president at the old Jeffersonville-Youngsville Central School District, and Carol Slotkin, a current faculty member of Sullivan West at its Jeffersonville campus, took the administration to task that evening for failing to stop renovations work in Jeffersonville that removed pieces of the historic 1938 building.
Four classrooms undergoing renovations to turn them into K-6 rooms, said Monahan, were ripped apart by subcontractors working for the schools construction management firm, Turner Construction Company, based upon blueprints from the schools architectural firm, the Hillier Group.
According to Monahan and Slotkin, the 1938 building representing about a third of the campus is on the state and national registers of historic places and thus cannot be worked on in such a manner. (In fact, according to a document hanging in Slotkins office, the school has been on these registers since 1988. Slotkin led that effort.)
In particular, they were concerned about the absence of several oak closet doors, slate blackboards and wood molding that served as trim around various parts of the affected rooms.
Monahan and others called the state about the matter, and the education department subsequently ordered all work stopped pending a meeting that was held on Monday. Attending were officials from the school, Turner, Hillier, the state education and historic preservation offices, Monahan and Slotkin.
All Slotkin would say afterwards was that she is confident the district will do the right thing, but Superintendent Michael Johndrow revealed yesterday that the State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) is demanding that the district rebuild the closets it tore down.
In addition, the parquet floors and working slate blackboards are to remain, and no cabinetry can be attached to the walls.
They also insisted that the school not replace any original windows with the planned aluminum, triple-pane variety that would, according to Johndrow, look exactly the same but be more efficient. The windows must be kept as-is, said SHPO officials.
At the board meeting, Johndrow told the board and the public that as far as we knew, everything was being done according to plan.
Yesterday, he expressed sadness and confusion over the states position, especially its reversal regarding the window replacements.
We have their approval in writing, he said of that issue, but they said, No, you cant touch the windows. Thats sad.
It is so counterproductive, he continued. This is not a museum, this is a working school.
So how did this potentially costly mistake happen?
Johndrow isnt sure (he said there has not yet been any finger-pointing), but he plans to make sure the district doesnt foot the bill, because he is adamant that it is not the intentional fault of district officials.
Were as sensitive to that 1938 building as you are, he remarked to Slotkin and Monahan during the board meeting. Were not trying to hurt it. Its a beautiful building.
And . . . if something has gone on that shouldnt . . . the school district wont have to pay for it, he explained.
That building was entrusted to every board that came thereafter, responded Slotkin. I am glad to hear you will be looking after the best interests of the school.
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On Friday, Johndrow offered the Democrat a tour of the classrooms currently undergoing renovations at Jeffersonville.
Johndrow explained that the closets and a storage space between them in each room had been removed so as to allow a row of computers in the back and a row of cabinets on the side. The state has since disallowed that.
He also pointed out that, per state guidelines, the windows in the building were being restored to their original form (plywood sheets obscured the upper portions of the windows for years). The state has since disallowed that, too.
Plus, he said, the original walnut trim adorning the upper and lower hallways would remain, and subcontractors worked hard to not punch holes in the ceiling to rewire and replace aging lighting fixtures.
All this, he said, caused the renovations costs to rise to $5 million at Jeff, up significantly from initial estimates.
Although the Narrowsburg campus predates Jeffs by nearly a decade, no similar preservation attempts were made there, said Johndrow, who has heard no complaints from local residents.
He did, however, compare Jeff to Livingston Manor Central School, which shares the Colonial Williamsburg design.
We want to keep that, he said. I feel bad that people think were intentionally destroying anything. . . . Hopefully, this will get cleared up.
The state is awaiting Hilliers revised blueprints incorporating SHPOs demands. Once they receive and approve those documents, said Johndrow, the stop work order will be lifted. He still expects the renovations at Jeff to be completed by December 2003.