This article first appeared in Newsday by Nicholas Spangler
Amityville school district voters Tuesday night approved a $69.9 million bond referendum to fund renovations and expansion intended to keep pace with growing student enrollment.
The 650-529 vote was a “clear message from the community that they support the work that is necessary for the district and for the kids,” said Superintendent Mary T. Kelly.
“Look at our high school, which has not been updated since it was built in 1952: that speaks volumes for the necessity of updating our infrastructure and facilities and making way for the expansion that is predicted and that we are already experiencing,” Kelly said.
Pending approval from New York State, work will start this year on expanding school buildings, reconfiguring classrooms and updating equipment, Kelly said. Officials expect it will be done by the 2020-2021 school year.
State aid will cover $38.9 million of the total bill, with residents paying off the $31 million remainder over 20 years. Yearly property taxes on the average home in the district, which spans parts of the towns of Babylon and Oyster Bay, will increase by about $242 in Babylon and $223 in Oyster Bay.
To make the administration’s case in recent weeks, Kelly gave presentations to clergy in North Amityville and civic groups across the district and district officials hosted tours of school buildings. At a community meeting with PowerPoint and cookies at Park Avenue Memorial School last month, Board of Education President Ronald Moss warned the audience that passage of the bond was critical: “If we don’t do this for our kids, we’re putting them in jeopardy.”
The Amityville district is one of the few on Long Island that is growing, with 3,181 students now and a projected 3,784 projected by 2023, according to a 2014 district demographic study that predicts much of the growth will be at Amityville Memorial High School and Northeast and Northwest Elementary schools, which are already overcrowded.
Plans call for much of the work to be done at Northwest Elementary school and at the high school, where for years some classes have been taught in trailers intended to ease the crowding. The two schools will account for $50.6 million of the spending.
The high school would get 22 new classrooms, a new gym and an expanded cafeteria, among other improvements, and ninth graders — moved to Edmund W. Miles Middle School years ago to ease overcrowding — would move back to the high school. Northwest, with students from kindergarten through second grade, would get new classrooms, phys-ed stations and a library.
Across the district, security vestibules would be added at building entrances. Much of the other work involves basic infrastructure upkeep that district officials say is needed on buildings that are approaching 90 years old: air conditioning and electrical upgrades, masonry reconstruction, new glazing on windows so old that Kelly said some are virtually opaque.
Together, they would be the first major bond-funded upgrades in the district in more than a decade.