Great Neck schools to begin $42.5M of bond projects in summer

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Great Neck North High School is seen on a warmer fall day. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)
Great Neck North High School is seen on a warmer fall day. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

The Great Neck Public Schools will be embarking on more than $40 million worth of capital projects related to the 2017 bond issue this summer, school officials said at a board meeting Thursday night, including a controversial parking lot.

Superintendent of Schools Teresa Prendergast made the announcement while highlighting aspects of the 2019-20 school calendar, particularly the fact the school year will start after Labor Day.

“As many of you know, we did pass a bond in May of 2017 and this summer we’re going to begin $40 million worth of projects,” Prendergast told meeting attendees. “So every day counts in terms of getting work done in our schools and making sure that our buildings are safe, clean and pristine, shining ready for greeting our students and faculty.”

Prendergast was referencing the passage of a $68.3 million bond in 2017, which would finance the bulk of $77.84 million worth of “critical” infrastructure projects and educational and building enhancements.

The $68.3 million bond was a trimmed down version of the $85.9 million bond that was rejected in February, scrapping construction of an early childhood center and reducing the scope of alterations at the E.M. Baker School and their Clover Avenue facility.

Infrastructure projects – masonry reconstruction, roof replacements, window and door replacements – make up the bulk of the costs, with an expected cost of $51.7 million. Educational and building enhancements like science labs, auditorium renovations, library centers and a new parking lot make up the other $26.1 million of projects.

According to a list provided by the Great Neck Public Schools on Friday, there are 32 projects that will be undertaken during the summer worth about $42.5 million.

South High School, South Middle School, and John F. Kennedy School, will be reconstructing their libraries and getting upgraded air conditioning, according to the list.

South Middle School will also see new auditorium seating, roof and HVAC system replacements, new windows and doors, LED stage lighting, and toilet room reconstruction, while South High also plans to replace windows, alter two classrooms, upgrade stage lighting to LED, and upgrade the gym locker rooms.

In addition, John F. Kennedy School will see corridor ceiling replacements, new thermostats and heating valves, replaced exterior doors, a new roof, and a canopy behind its auxiliary gym.

E.M. Baker School plans to work on an auditorium and “associated alterations” and renovate the nurse’s office and bathroom, the list says.

Parkville School’s lone project is window replacement. There are no projects listed for Saddle Rock Elementary School or Lakeville Elementary School.

North High School’s biggest project will be a still debated parking lot, which will reconfigure the Polo Road parking lot with a new lower parking lot that will provide 97 stalls for student drivers. Its other project is upgrading stage lighting to LED.

“They’re pretty straight forward,” Assistant Superintendent John Powell said. “We’re trying to of course prioritize and do the ones that are most needed as quickly as possible.”

Powell said there is likely “not enough time” to complete all of the projects during the summertime, meaning there could be “some runover into the school year.” Those projects would be worked on at night.

“We can’t do much with the students being in school,” Powell said.

The parking lot project would be going forward despite more than a year of controversy. It first drew scrutiny from some of its neighbors at a board meeting as early as December 2017. It then intensified in January 2018, with more than a dozen residents sometimes taking the podium to protest the proposal.

Among their concerns have been a lack of transparency specifically about that project, the destruction of green space and an increased amount of students driving. They have also asked why students simply cannot use the Parkwood parking lot and questioned the necessity of the project.

Resident Barbara Shaw, prior to getting news about the bond projects, expressed some of those concerns at the Thursday night meeting.

She read off an invitational pamphlet from the Great Neck Park District to attend their master plan meeting that was earlier that night, suggesting something like that should have been delivered to residents, and cited earlier comments about the importance of green space to mental health.

School officials have said that it reflects a reality that more students are driving and have obligations outside school, the bond was overwhelmingly approved and said they had public hearings about the bond projects leading up to the May 2017 vote.

Powell said he expects the parking lot to be finished during the summer period.

Overall, Powell said all the bond-related capital projects – primarily to be worked on during summers – would be materially complete by August 2022.

In unrelated infrastructure business, trustees accepted a $151,465.46 check from Moore Roofing Inc.’s insurance company for damages incurred while replacing the roof at North High School.

According to school board materials, the company “did not perform the necessary steps to protect their work in the event of a rainstorm,” leading to water damage on the ceiling, walls, and electrical sound system.

Annie Mendelson, an opponent of the parking lot project, did not speak during open comment period about the North High lot but asked how the roofers were vetted, if anyone was supervising them to make sure they provided covering and if there’s any policy requiring supervision.

“I mean, it seems like a basic function that should have been provided by the roofer,” Mendelson said of covering the roof to be protected.

Powell said the roofers “took a chance” and should have “used care in covering the work they were doing,” hence the restitution payment.

He also said they were vetted by the school’s architect, submitted all the necessary materials and worked with clients of the school district’s size before.

Prendergast also noted that the company “readily accepted responsibility.”

As for whether it’s policy to oversee projects, Great Neck Board of Education President Barbara Berkowitz said, “It’s not policy, but it certainly is practice to go ahead and oversee as best we can all projects as they’re undertaken.”

2 COMMENTS

  1. Our school system is a complete joke. Kids opting out of test every year. Our kids are at-risk of succeeding in life. Just send them all to the Village School! The place I hate so very much! I’ll vote no on the school budget every year and there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to prevent that! I was forced to go to school for 14 years. In Haiti I wouldn’t have to go to school that long. My miserable school experiences will be reflected in my “no” vote on every school budget going forward!

  2. There is too much waste. The parking lot should be removed. Keep the field. I’ve heard better reasons from the people who speak out against the parking lot than anyone on the other side. Rich parents are manipulating a very weak board. We need programs that will benefit more kids, not a few rich kids who need parking for their expensive cars. Let them learn now that everything has a cost. Destroy a field today, suffer hotter temperatures and polluted air tomorrow. Let the kids get to school earlier and walk from the other school lot at Parkwood. Money would be better spent on STEM programs and preK. Beanie caps, cars?! This school district supports wasteful behavior and spending. Vote NO to bad spending.

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