Known for idyllic beauty and hosting the Winter Olympics in 1932 and 1980, Lake Placid and its sister community, Wilmington, have a combined population base of less than 4,000, about 700 of them school-aged.
Started in a little red schoolhouse in 1848, what is now the Lake Placid Central School District balances the academic advantages of that small student body with the challenges of finding funding for its facilities.
“There’s so much knowledge and understanding in the personal relationships that develop over long periods of time. It’s one of those intangibles that’s hard to quantify, but it makes a tremendous difference.” – Lake Placid Superintendent of Schools Dr. Roger P. Catania
For the last two decades, Mosaic Associates has helped guide Lake Placid’s educational community with its architectural planning challenges. The district usually finds it best to tackle one small job at a time as funds become available rather than trying to float large voter-approved bond issues. The last major capital project started in 1998. Nearly twenty years later, in the summer of 2016, the district began working with Mosaic to plan the next major capital effort.
“It’s been a good relationship,” said Superintendent of Schools Dr. Roger P. Catania. “We are happy with the work they do, and we think they enjoy working with us.”
Design that evolves
Dr. Catania fondly remembers the first project, completed just after the turn of the century, because it involved a new gymnasium for the high school. At the time, he was the high school basketball coach.
“If you were a basketball coach in this region 25 years ago, every school you played in had a small gym that double or tripled as a cafeteria and auditorium,” Dr. Catania said. “In Lake Placid, we had the original gym in a building from the 1920s, so the three-point line didn’t even fit on the gym floor.”
Mosaic designed a new gymnasium and turned the old gym into a weight room. But the architects found a greater solution
in the 20-foot airspace between the old gym floor and the ceiling, adding a platform to create a second story. The project also included the construction of a new wing at the district’s elementary school.
“We ended up with a new gym and a new library upstairs that can be accessed from the first floor,” Dr. Catania said. “It’s a notable design and it is still a beautiful space 15 years later. In that project, Mosaic was also able to fit in a new wing with six new classrooms and renovate the main office and guidance counselor areas. That was great for me, because I was a guidance counselor, too, at the time.”
Strategic architectural planning
Five years later, the district went back to the voters with a plan to upgrade the cinder track around the athletic field two miles from the school, near where the Olympic torch stands. District voters were enthusiastic about the new rubber track and concession stand, but voted against it. In hindsight, Dr. Catania said, it was probably because the district tried to deal with several other pressing issues at the same time, such as repairing a retaining wall and fixing sidewalks.
Mosaic helped the district with architectural planning to organize the work differently. Voters authorized the projects on the next vote.
“There’s so much knowledge and understanding in the personal relationships that develop over long periods of time,” Dr. Catania said, noting that he relies on Mosaic’s partners for the history and institutional knowledge they have with the district he was appointed to lead in 2013. “It’s one of those intangibles that’s hard to quantify, but it makes a tremendous difference.”
As Lake Placid Central School District’s architect, Mosaic conducts a building survey every five years to evaluate energy deficiencies and pinpoint the most effective ways to correct them. In 2009, Mosaic identified and prioritized more than $7 million worth of money-saving improvements, including such items as a boiler and cooling tower that needed replacing at Lake Placid Elementary School and lighting system upgrades, building envelope air sealing, steam trap rebuild and replacement, and temperature control improvements at the middle school. In 2013, voters finally approved $731,404 to address the most pressing improvements. The cost of the bond issue will be offset annually by energy savings.
Dr. Catania said the next thing Mosaic will help with is to take outstanding infrastructure issues at the district’s two buildings that have been on hold for a number of years because of funding concerns and package them into a project to “strengthen the facilities as they exist.”