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Misc.

The Great Outdoors Project: Changing the School and the Community

November 20, 2018 by Jake Somoza

The $15.6 million Great Outdoors Project will add many new recreational and learning spaces as well as improve many of the existing spaces to the Saratoga Springs City School District (SSCSD) and the local community. The Great Outdoors Project, a capital project proposed by the Saratoga Springs City School District, focuses on improving the outdoor spaces throughout the district and in several community areas.

The project entails new fields, outdoor classrooms, playgrounds, storage spaces, LED lighting, irrigation systems and much more. The administration aims to improve the district and the community in areas where these changes could have the biggest impact.

One of the most highly anticipated changes that will be made through the project is the addition of the all-purpose turf field. The all-purpose field will add a second stadium to the Saratoga Springs High School that can be used for various sporting events. Head of the Physical Education department, Michael Hall, believes this could greatly impact the atmosphere of the sporting events “I love the fact that the Friday night football games are as packed as they are and it’s so awesome to see the entire student body out there.” According to Hall, while this is a great experience for the students, it’s unfortunate that other teams aren’t able to have the same experience. Hall said, “The biggest thing I’m excited about is bringing more varsity sports back on campus so the student body can enjoy them and they can be celebrated the way they deserve to be celebrated.” While the field may not provide the same attendance as the football games, it will give the students a chance to support all varsity athletes in a similar fashion to the way that they rally around the football team.

An interesting aspect of this project is the impact it will have on the community. The Great Outdoors Project will include improvements to East Side Recreation, West Side Recreation, and Gavin Park. According to SSCSD Superintendent Michael Patton, “There’s a community portion of it that makes up close to fifty percent of the work and the other fifty percent is our schools.” Patton and SSCSD are working to improve the already strong relationship between the school district and the community. “Our community partnerships are growing and I think they’re stronger than ever,” said Hall. These partnerships are helping the district to grow and provide opportunities for students to reach new heights.

While there are many additions to the high school, one of the benefits of the Great Outdoors Project is “that every school gets something and that’s an exciting prospect for us that we’re part of the bigger project” according to Dorothy Nolan co-principal Courtney Jablonski. One of Dorothy Nolan’s new additions through the Great Outdoors Project is an outdoor classroom. According to Dorothy Nolan co-principal Dana Bush, the importance of an outdoor classroom is that, “it’s going to be motivating for the kids. Most kids like being outdoors, as do adults. So I think that’s one benefit and I also think that the space, hopefully, can be more flexible for the way you want to provide instruction so there may not be as many limitations as there are in the classroom.” There will be outdoor learning spaces implemented into several schools in the district. These spaces will help maximize the efficiency of education according to assistant superintendent for information technology and operational innovation, David L’Hommedieu. “We already have a lot of green space, but we haven’t really been using those for educational purposes. So we’re hopeful that one of the benefits that comes from this is that we can utilize some of those outdoor spaces or green spaces as learning classrooms or an extension of the curriculum” L’Hommedieu said. Being able to include outdoor learning into the school district will enhance the education of the students as they are given many new opportunities to be successful.

One of the main concerns with the project is how it will disrupt the community. “We’ll do the best we can to plan and minimize any kind of disruption that may take place, but it’s never perfect,” Patton said. One of the pieces that comes with the addition of new facilities is the construction, but according to Patton once these additions are made, the impact will greatly outweigh the temporary inconveniences. L’Hommedieu’s hope is that the implementation of the project will be an overall benefit to the community. “I hope it’s a benefit for the community. I think for the most part there’s something in there for almost everybody, students, athletes, community members of all ages” L’Hommedieu said.

Patton said that the goal is to have the project complete by the fall of 2020.

More information on the Great Outdoors Project can be found here:
https://www.saratogaschools.org/files/1392976/capital-project-final.pdf
https://youtu.be/jd5wTaZBkyo

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