In February 2016, the community approved a $19,995,000 Capital Project with a resounding “yes.” Phase I of the project includes the construction of a state-of-the-art athletic facility behind the Jr./Sr. High School. Phase II of the project includes reducing the district’s campuses from three to two by closing the John L. Edwards Primary School and moving Pre-K through Grade 2 into a new addition at the Montgomery C. Smith Intermediate School.

When planning began for our Capital Project earlier this year, we expected the typical design challenges. Our goal was to explore all options to be sure we selected the best design for our students. This was particularly true for the new primary wing addition to the historic M.C. Smith Intermediate School (MCSIS). Many in the community rightfully spoke out about the importance of maintaining the new addition’s architectural compatibility with the existing Intermediate School.

Built in 1937, the original MCSIS school building has a distinct Colonial Revival style. The addition constructed on the north side of the building in 1997 was thoughtfully designed to be visually compatible with the historic building. Fortunately, we are working with the same architecture firm that designed the 1997 addition, Rhinebeck Architecture & Planning PC.

Over the last several months, district administrators and the Board of Education have worked tirelessly with the architects to ensure the best possible building design that compliments the existing building and our academic programs while fitting within our financial means. One of our goals was to design an addition with a nearly seamless look next to the historic exterior of MCSIS. However, soil samplings on the south side of the MCSIS building revealed evidence of unstable soil. These results challenged the district and architects to formulate a more creative solution that would fit the district’s needs, both academically and financially.

Report findings confirmed that “fill” costs to compensate for the unstable soil would be higher for a one-story addition. However, construction costs for a two-story addition (that would ultimately mirror the look of the original building on a smaller scale) would be substantially higher compared to the one-story design with the added cost of subsoil remediation.

After much deliberation, we were able to develop a design that offers a good compromise between structural and architectural integrity while providing a favorable academic program flow between the existing and new instructional spaces.

The initial design for the new Pre-Kindergarten – Grade 1 wing placed the classrooms at the front of the construction area on the south side of MCSIS. This design, with the gym in the back, presented an expanded one-story look that was not in harmony with the massing of the three-story MCSIS building. The current design moves the new gym to the front of the building, providing not only the illusion of a two-story structure but a cost savings as well.

Additionally, the architects were able to develop a design for the new PK-1 wing that includes a second story over the existing technology wing. The second floor will accommodate Grade 1 and more closely matches the size of the original school building. Adding a partial second floor (only over the tech wing) also eliminates the need for a retaining wall on the south side of the building, reduces the extent of subsoil remediation necessary to construct the addition, and increases available green space and areas for new playscapes.

A cluster of three Kindergarten classrooms will be located on the first floor, in the newly renovated technology wing, with four additional Kindergarten classrooms built onto it. The foundation under the new Kindergarten classrooms will be constructed in a fashion similar to the existing technology wing, maintaining the option of building a second story in the event enrollment increases and more space is needed in the future.

This partial second story design has a cost that is virtually equal to the initial single story design, and it includes several benefits that could not be achieved with a one-story addition. For example, a second floor over the existing technology wing will place our youngest students in closer proximity to shared spaces, gaining more in terms of academic programming and enhancing student flow through the entire building.

The new design may result in a delay of project completion, but the district and Board of Education are confident in the configuration and feel strongly that getting it right during the design phase is essential to producing the right educational environment for our students for years to come.

To see additional drawings from Rhinebeck Architecture, please visit and click on “Capital Project” in the quick link menu.