November 27, 2021

Homer High School unveils renovations

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Homer High School Principal Doug VanEtten talks about some of the features of the new gymnasium at the high school on Tuesday.

An 18-month project to upgrade Homer High School is wrapping up and will be marked by an open house Thursday in the new gymnasium, which will be open for gym class and use by sports teams the following day.

The event begins with a walk-through of the 13,500-square-foot gym and the locker rooms below from 6 to 6:45 p.m. A brief ribbon-cutting ceremony will be at 7 p.m., followed by a match played by members of the girls volleyball team.

Superintendent Nancy Ruscio said she was looking forward to completing the second of the project’s three phases.

The district has been juggling space for its gym classes and sports teams during construction. Teams had to use gym space in other district schools and all of the teams that would normally use the gym for home games had to play at SUNY Cortland or on the road.

“It’s going to feel great,” Ruscio said. “The students are champing at the bit to get in there.”

Many of the improvements included in the $21.9 million construction project were designed to improve safety, including moving the music facilities out of the bus garage to avoid having students walking to and from class among buses and delivery vehicles.

The gym improvements will bring the district into compliance with state code concerning dimensions of the facility, Ruscio said. Several students received head injuries over the years in the previous 9,000-square-foot gym because the walls were so close to the basketball court, she said.

The third phase of the construction project will improve the bus garage, Ruscio said. The scope of the work will be determined after the final costs of the first two phases, which also improved classroom space and other facilities.

Bidding for the bus garage improvements is expected in the spring and work should take three to five months to complete, said district Business Manager Mike Falls.

About $800,000 is projected to be available for the bus garage. Improvements are likely to include raising the height of the bus garage doors and moving pipes to accommodate the taller doors, possibly adding a bus repair lift and sanding block walls.

The district cut the ribbon on a new auditorium about two weeks ago. Other improvements in the earlier work include a music suite in the front of the school, new administrative offices, improved art room, new tennis courts and a new baseball field fence.

Falls said changes to the project to move the administrative offices within the main building actually works out better for taxpayers. He said the bus garage work will be eligible for 83 percent state aid, the same as the rest of the projects, because of it.

The district originally estimated the work would increase the tax levy by 1.4 percent or $219,000 annually, but the extension of aid to the bus garage work will lower that figure, said Falls, who did not yet have a final figure.