Written by Rich Forestano Friday, 18 February 2011 00:00
The future configuration of the Mineola School District became clearer last Tuesday, Feb. 8 after the $4.4 million bond vote, which failed by 366 votes. Over 1,782 district residents visited the polls last week, with 1,074 voting no, while 708 voted yes.
The voting commenced at the Cross Street School, Meadow Drive School, Jackson Avenue School and Hampton Street School. Hampton Street was the only school in the district to have more yes than no votes at 162-136.
Jackson Avenue, Meadow Drive and Cross Street all tallied more no than yes votes with 250-337, 141-355 and 155-246 respectively. If passed, the bond would have seen Meadow Drive and Hampton Street become the north and south schools for a pre-K-2 configuration, with the Willis Avenue and Cross Street schools closing.
Jackson Avenue would have housed third through fifth grade with a sixth through eighth grade configuration at Mineola Middle School and a traditional ninth through twelfth grade setting at Mineola High School.
Finance committee reports suggested that this bond would have saved the district $25 million over ten years. Now, with the default option being voted on at the most recent workshop meeting, that’s gone.
According to a finance report from an Aug. 12, 2010 meeting, the default option savings would project at $2.85 million after two years. The report stated that the default option attained cost efficiencies without additional debt and with minimal construction.
In October, voters rejected a $6.7 million bond that would have resulted in the closure of three elementary schools. “The people have spoken,” board president Terence Hale said after the tally. “Now we go to default.”
The default option still sees Willis Avenue and Cross Street close and same configuration (pre-K-2 North/South) at Meadow Drive and Hampton Street if the bond would’ve passed. Jericho Turnpike will still serve as the dividing line in the district for north and south schooling.
The difference and cause for constant debate among residents and the board is the configuration of the middle school with a fifth through eighth grade and an eight to twelfth grade at the high school. Cross Street is in the final stages of being leased to the Solomon Schechter Day School in Glen Cove.
District Superintendent Dr. Michael Nagler said that the lease is “progressing nicely,” and a meeting would likely take place with Glen Cove Mayor Ralph V. Suozzi in a few weeks and “all systems are go there.”
The $1.7 million extension on the Hampton Street School will be financed out of the undesignated fund balance, with the public being able to vote on it during the budget vote in May.
“This bond vote was a very small turnout,” Nagler said. “We did exactly what we said we were going to do which is give the community the opportunity two different times to weigh in on configuration or we were going to the default option. Now, we’re making plans to actualize the default option.”
The Cross Street School was to be closed this September whether the bond passed or not. The Willis Avenue School will be closed in September 2012.
Nagler had stated that he would like to rent out the [Willis Avenue] space but is limited in choice to a 501 3 (c) nonprofit organization for nursery through pre-K children due to their still being payments left on the bond used to finance the school’s construction. The district office will continue to be housed at Willis Avenue, but the district may look to move its offices if it “makes financial sense.”
“I’m going to have to see what our viable rental options are and if it makes financial sense for district office to move somewhere else to get a better rent on that building, we’ll consider it,” Nagler said. “There’s really no rush to find a renter and as soon as we’re setup for the following year we’ll start looking for a renter.”
In terms of transportation with the new configuration, Nagler said change is coming. The current middle school seventh-graders are moving next year to the high school as eighth graders while current eighth graders will be moving to the high school as ninth graders which is, “a lot of movement of children,” Nagler said.
“You’re moving two grades and the new middle school, whatever we call that building, the five, six, seven building, will get two new grades as well. The physical move will be, in a short period of time and will be the biggest challenge.”
The district will be converting the old home economics room currently in use as a senior lounge and a faculty room at the high school, to a science classroom space to accommodate the new students. Six other rooms will be repurposed for the eight classrooms for the eighth grade.