Renovated library ‘made a home for our students’

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By EJ Conzola II

NYVT Media

New York State Assemblyman Matthew Simpson joined officials in the Whitehall Central School District May 31 to celebrate the recent completion of a years-long renovation of the library in the junior/senior high school – a project boosted by a $40,000 grant Simpson helped secure through the state Legislature.

“It’s nice to see something completed,” the Horicon Republican said after he toured the renovated library, which had been damaged in the August 2020 flood that left several inches of water throughout the school building.

The damage had been exacerbated by a scheduled painting project that had all the library’s books and other materials in boxes on the floor when the water came in, rather than on the shelves where they normally sat – and would have been above the inflow, said high school Principal Ethan Burgess.

The flood destroyed roughly 7,100 library items, including nearly all of the facility’s books.

The district had been working on restoring the library since shortly after the flood, using a combination of funds originally targeted for a broader capital project as well as a variety of grants and allocations in the district’s annual budgets, according to District Superintendent Patrick Dee. The $40,000 Simpson obtained helped pay for the completion of the renovations.

The money came through state “bullet aid,” funds the Legislature sets aside for schools and libraries for projects not covered by other line items in the state budget.

The time it took Whitehall to fully renovate the library is an example of why the state must do more to ensure schools receive sufficient – and timely – funding, Simpson said. Schools – particularly small schools such as Whitehall – are facing “extraordinary pressures” from a variety of sources, including limited budgets, small enrollments and unfunded mandates imposed by the state, he said.

“Today is about making sure our students have the resources they need to succeed,” Simpson said. “With mounting downward pressures on tightening school budgets, districts are vulnerable to unanticipated expenditures. I’m committed to supporting our schools and ensuring our children have access to the best possible educational tools and environments,” he said.

“The state needs to do better and it must do better,” he said.

Simpson said he was impressed by the renovated library, which has become “a place of socialization” for students as well as a place to study and research.

The library is now “more of a living room for the high school,” Burgess agreed, adding the more comfortable, welcoming space “made a home for our students.”