NEWFANE — Focus groups are being formed to give input and guidance on the design particulars of the Newfane school district’s newly voter-approved capital project.
In December, the district won voter approval to proceed with a $30.5 million project to improve each school building, renovate the middle school auditorium and improve outdoor athletic facilities at the middle and high schools. The bills are to be paid from the combination of state building aid and a special district savings account.
Separate focus groups, composed of community members, are being formed to look at each of the schools, the athletic improvements and the middle school auditorium, according to district Superintendent Michael Baumann.
The focus group on athletic facilities may become two or more groups, at least one each considering aspects of the track complex at the middle school and stadium development at the high school, he added.
“It depends on what response we get from people that are interested,” Baumann said.
Each focus group will have a coordinator who’s a member of district administration. Athletics director Danielle Hawkins will coordinate the group(s) focused on athletic facilities, Middle School Dean of Students Aimee Chaffee will coordinate the auditorium focus group and each building principal will coordinate a group, too.
The main focus in each school building will be the configuration of the front office and remodeling of entryways, according to Baumann.
“We’re doing some more in-depth stuff in the high school with the ceiling tiles and putting up signage so people know when they’re in the music wing, the athletic department, those types of things,” he said. “A lot of cosmetic stuff at the high school, just to spruce the building up a little bit.”
As for the stadium, the approved project calls for installation of synthetic turf, a new concession stand, bleachers, lights and sound system. The specifics have yet to be hammered out, though.
“There’s a whole bunch of really great ideas swirling around, but it’s so preliminary, I don’t want to mention anything or commit to anything,” Baumann said.
The main role of the focus groups, the size of which will be determined by interest, will be discussing the details of every piece of the project.
“What color tile do we want? How do we want it laid out? All that kind of fine detail stuff, the aesthetics of how it’s going to look, that’s what we’ll be looking to the focus groups for,” Baumann said.
The projected completion date of the new capital project is December 2023, presumably well after the COVID-19 threat has passed, and yet the pandemic is affecting the design plans, according to Baumann.
“I think whether there’s another pandemic or not, the way we’re thinking of stuff and looking at things in terms of increasing the level of hygiene, that’s going to have an impact,” he said. “None of us have ever lived through something like this before, so it’s really changed our thinking … .”
So far, Baumann said, community interest in the project is high — so much so that the Newfane school district is seeing the formation of its first-ever alumni association as a result.
“As an offshoot of the project, there’s a core group of alumni in the district, some of whom are teachers, some who live in the community, who are forming an alumni association now to help and support the capital project,” he said, “which I think is really exciting.”
To volunteer for a focus group, call Baumann’s office at 778-6850.