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Bond Proposals Presented to Public On School Reconfiguration

Residents Loathe Rooftop Playground

Mineola School District Superintendent Dr. Michael Nagler presented bond proposals for construction on school reconfiguration on July 22. These bonds would need to be passed by vote to be implemented if district residents vote to not reconfigure under the default option one configuration.

Option one consists of the closing of the Hampton Street School and Cross Street School with a pre-K-2 south model at the Willis Avenue School and a mirrored model at the Meadow Drive School but with a north jurisdiction. Grades three and four would be at the Jackson Avenue School, with grades five through seven being at the middle school.

Mineola High School would have an eighth through twelfth grade model under option one. This configuration is what the district will move ahead with if a bond referendum fails.

No bond would be needed for this configuration and it keeps four grades local and clusters one additional grade. However, the north/south split has been an issue to some residents and the number of transitions in this model has borne the brunt of parent and resident outcry. Option one would see the fifth and eighth grade move out of its current schools.

Option two sees the same schools close but would reverse the north/south jurisdictions at Jackson and Willis Avenue. Fifth grade would be added to Jackson Avenue and the middle school would see a six through eighth grade model. The high school would be a traditional ninth through twelfth grade configuration.

This configuration keeps the middle school and high school as is and makes Jackson Avenue a three-year transition. But this option would need a bond passed and the numbers in the north/south split would still be an issue. However, under the contingent bond proposal, Hampton could serve as the pre-K-2 model rather than Willis Avenue.

Option three would see three schools closing, adding Meadow Drive to Hampton and Cross Street. The Willis Avenue School would have a pre-K-1 model and Jackson Avenue would be a grade two through four institution. The middle school would hold fifth through seventh grade while the high school would use an option one configuration. Under option three, Hampton may be retained for the use as the district’s central office.

This model would see a full cluster, optimizing staff and class sizes and would showcase three-year transitions for students. According to Nagler, this is the most cost-effective option in terms of savings.

The downside to this option is that all north/south students of the dividing line (Jericho Turnpike) would be traveling, and a bond would need to be passed. Option four, according to the Nagler, cannot be pursued at this time.

Nagler presented two bond options to the board and the public. Bond option one (contingent) would reconfigure under configuration option two’s model.

This option would need to be passed to build an eight-classroom extension on the Jackson Avenue School along with a multi-purpose room and a bus loop. The Willis/Hampton debate comes into play in that if the district were to use the Hampton Street School rather than the Willis Avenue School, four additional classrooms would need to be added to Hampton. The total cost of this bond option would be $6.1 million.

A contingent bond is broken up into two parts and is, according to Nagler, an “if-then proposal.” One part is put out and voted on and if it passes, a vote is put out for the second part. A second part of a contingent bond cannot be voted on if the first part fails.

If district voters pass the bond base of $4.4 million needed to build on Jackson Avenue, then voters can vote whether to spend an additional $1.7 million on Hampton.

Bond option two would reconfigure under configuration option three. This bond proposal does not have a contingent option.

If passed, this bond would see the same bond option one extension on Jackson Avenue and the renovation of Willis Avenue’s second floor to add 14 additional classrooms (11 interior, 3 exterior) and a rooftop playground.

This bond option would see Hampton Street retained under reconfiguration option three functions. The construction of a rooftop playground is also included in this bond option.

“When I originally presented [this option] a few weeks ago, I spoke about the possibility of creating a 5-8 middle school as part of this bond [option two],” Nagler said. “We cannot do that as part of this bond as a contingent. There’s an interpretation legally that the board would be forfeiting their right to create the configuration. It could be discussed later on, but not as a contingent.”

Residents were disturbed by the idea of a rooftop playground, stating that this is not New York City. “I moved out of the city so that my child can play on real grass,” a parent said. “I don’t want my child to play on Astroturf or any kind of fake grass.”

The total cost of bond option two totals $6.7 million. Superintendent Nagler said the district has received an offer on the Meadow Drive School to serve as a rental if the reconfiguration that includes closing three schools is enacted.

Nagler said the agency that’s interested is willing to negotiate with the district now and if the bond passes, they have the rental. However, if it fails, they don’t. He stated once he gets an offer, the revenue that comes from a possible deal can be applied towards any bond debt or increases the district’s savings.

Dr. Nagler stated that this doesn’t mean he can’t rent the other schools. He has showed the schools to agencies and stated one particular group favored Meadow Drive over the other schools. He said the program that the school runs is what garnered the agency’s interest.

“None of these [options] should persuade anyone in one direction,” Nagler said. “But taking all things into consideration, try to think of it objectively just makes sense. Again, if it fails, bond option one can still be pursued or not. You can decide you don’t want to spend any money at all on a bond and go with configuration option one and still generate a substantial savings for the district.”

In order to entertain this, the district would have to reconfigure under configuration option three. Nagler recommended to the board that it pursue bond option two because if it fails, the district can still pursue bond option one. Nagler stated that bond option two shows the greatest savings over time.

The board considered voting to pursue bond option two, but following public comment, the board voted to table it until its Aug. 12 meeting.