Much has occurred here in the Amity School District since this column last appeared. We accomplished a major programmatic change on Jan. 18 when Amity Regional High School became a grades 9-12 campus for the first time since 1963. Our grade 9 students were enthusiastically welcomed by faculty and upperclassman during their first week in a series of highly effective orientation activities.

At the Orange Junior High School, students in grades 7+8 moved into their brand new modular facility, also on Jan. 18. While the modulars are bright, clean and suitable as "swing space" during the renovation projects, faculty and administration look forward to a return to newly renovated Middle Schools at the beginning of the 2006-2007 school year. In Bethany, our move of grades 7+8 students into the modulars there took place on Monday, Jan. 31. Work will begin shortly at both Orange and Bethany to fully study the existing building structures through a process known as "destructive testing". This will be followed by an abatement project and finally total renovation, scheduled to start at the beginning of the summer.

Renovation and new construction is also scheduled to begin this summer at Amity High School. Testing will be done for asbestos as areas are prepared for construction/renovation. If any asbestos is found, abatement will take place. Since most of the high school was completed in 1992, a major abatement project is not anticipated.

We are very excited about these renovation/construction projects as they will provide the Amity Regional School student population with facilities that promote achievement at high levels. We are grateful to the taxpayers of the communities we serve for their recognition that their investment in their schools is vital and will pay incalculable dividends for years to come.

Recently, the Building Committee and Board of Education were informed that the impact of higher than expected costs for the modulars and construction inflation have increased the project budget by more than five million dollars. This will bring the project cost up to 74.4 million from the previously anticipated cost of 68.5 million. The good news is that increased reimbursements from the State of Connecticut and better than expected interest rates on our borrowed money translate into no additional taxes, even though the project total has increased. We anticipated a rate of 5 percent on $20,000,000 of bonds sold in January. Instead, the District received the lowest interest rate in 40 years, 4.1 percent, with Merrill Lynch & Company of New York City purchasing the bonds. Additionally, $8,190,000 in bond anticipation notes were sold at the same time with an average rate of 2.195 percent

Since residents of the three towns must approve total project cost, even though there will be no additional tax burden, the Amity Board of Education must put the project to a referendum vote later this spring. Of course we will keep the communities fully informed along the way as the project progresses.

Dr. Brady is Amity Superintendent of Schools.