Quiet Comfort

April 15-21, 2004
Quiet Comfort
By Kristen Fox / SUN  Staff Writer
FAA provides Grant to Soundproof St. Margaret’s School

Mattydale –– Aside from the sounds of chalk scraping against the chalkboard and children’s laughter, it will soon be so quiet inside St. Margaret’s School that one will be able to hear a pin drop. Over the years, students and staff at the school, which is located a short distance from Hancock Airport, have grown accustomed to the buzz of commercial air flights as well as jets from the Air National Guard’s 174th Fighter Wing as they fly overhead. But the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is helping the school to alleviate its noise problem.

The school has been approved to receive a grant from the FAA for sound insulation work. The sum of the grant will not be determined until after the FAA conducts a study of the school in late April, but it could range from one million dollars to $2.5 million. “What this means for our school depends on what the FAA finds and what they feel needs to be done to adequately soundproof the facility,” said Father David Baehr, pastor of St. Margaret’s Church. “It could be an upgrade of at least one million dollars.” The funds are part of the FAA’s school sound insulation program. The goal of the program is to keep an average noise level at or below 45 decibels, said Anthony Mancuso, Syracuse’s aviation commissioner. Construction work on the school, which serves pre-k through sixth grade, is expected to begin in summer of 2005. As part of the program the school receives sound-muffing windows and noise-reducing ceilings. There are also plans to install newer, quieter air conditioning or ventilation systems. The equipment will cool the building in warmer months so windows can be kept closed, said John Cataldo, superintendent of diocesan Catholic schools.

“We can’t eliminate the noise completely,” he said, “but we can work to reduce the disturbance it causes.” Cataldo is currently working with Ed King, facilities and construction manager for the diocese; Sister Miriam Anthony Carioto, OSF, principal of St. Margaret’s School and Father Baehr to study how best to attack the project. The renovations might temporarily displace some of St. Margaret’s students, but according to Cataldo construction will be done on only two classrooms at a time to cause as few distractions as possible. While some may view the major undertaking as a disturbance, Cataldo believes the experience can be a good learning opportunity for the children. “You can view this project in terms of dust and disturbances, or you can look at the positives. I am an optimist. It can be a great exercise for the students,” said Cataldo. He pointed out several possibilities that classes can explore as the construction progresses. “The students can keep journals charting the progress. They can translate theories they are learning in their classrooms into actual applications,” he added.

Cataldo plans to coordinate next summer’s construction with any other building concerns that arise. “If we find any other work that needs to be done, this is the time to do it,” said Cataldo. Other schools located near flight paths of Hancock Airport have been approved to receive federal money to help insulate against noisy air traffic. Roxboro Road Middle School, which is less than a quarter-mile from St. Margaret’s, received $3 million for soundproofing. St. Rose of Lima School in Syracuse is the last school on the list scheduled for sound insulation. No dollar amount has been approved yet to soundproof the school.

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