Great Neck schools tout enrichment programs, face parking lot criticism

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Great Neck schools tout enrichment programs, face parking lot criticism
David Zewatson discusses the school district's recreational programs. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Great Neck school officials presented the results of its 2018 enrichment programs to the school board and public Tuesday night, describing them as positive experiences that pay for themselves.

There were two presentations. One was a summary of summer camp and school year recreation. The other focused on the school district’s summer enrichment and summer school programs.

Matt Blackstone, the principal of the summer school’s programs, said 1,062 students participated, making it the largest number yet.

Much of that increase came from enrichment enrollment spiking from 600 to 689, Blackstone said, which in turn drove up revenue from $435,229 in 2017 to $514,272 in 2018.

Among the 78 enrichment courses are filmmaking, robotics, 3-D printing, coding, cooking, business, law, acting, public speaking, music, clay animation, fashion forensics – to name a few. The program also administered 299 Regents exams and offered credit recovery for high school classes.

“The list goes on and on,” Blackstone said.

Joseph Loria, the school district’s recreation supervisor, said the Summer Recreation Program – essentially a camp that offers art, crafts, sports, games and other recreational programs – registered a total of 840 campers. The Parkville School site had the most children enrolled, with 207 in total.

Expenses for the summer program were $696,303, according to David Zewatson, the school district’s director of physical education, athletics, and recreation. Revenues were $712,786.55, meaning that 101 percent of costs were recovered.

The district sponsored 25 children at no cost or partial cost, while there were a number of scholarships offered through the parent-teacher associations, Zewatson also noted.

Among the recommendations Zewatson and Loria made were having campsites at Saddle Rock and Lakeville for elementary campers because of summer bond project construction closing the South Middle School pool, using the Allenwood camp as a field trip site and forming a committee to explore possible changes for 2020.

“We do feel we’re at a point right now where between summer school, summer enrichment and summer camp, things of that nature, it would be a great opportunity for us to get together and have some real conversations about what summer programming might look like in the 2020 year in a way that best suits the interests of our students, gives them the best possible experience, and meets up with some of the expectations and desires that the parents are expressing to us, too,” Zewatson said.

Registration fees should also be raised by 3 percent to accommodate for the minimum wage increase, he said, while the 50 percent reduced fee structure should remain in place for 2019, Zewatson said.

In unrelated business, school board trustees also said that Patricia Daley-Jimenez, the director for food and nutritional services, plans to retire this year.

They also heard continued criticism about the Great Neck North High School parking lot project on the corner of Beach and Polo roads, which was approved in 2017 as part of a $68.3 million package of bonded projects.

The ongoing discussion comes in wake of a car accident on Beach Road, where a driver’s automobile flipped over.

Barbara Shaw, a concerned resident and parking lot critic, asked why the board could not come to a compromise on the parking.

“The best thing the Board of Education can do is use the parking lot that exists, the one across the street,” Shaw said. “You have more than 50 spots for the students who drive and work and the remainder of the cars should go to Parkwood [Tennis’s parking lot.]”

Harriet Picker, a Great Neck resident, said plenty of information has been disseminated to the public. She said there were mailers and green and white fliers itemizing each project that was in the bond.

“We have now spent every single meeting about this topic and it was voted on over 18 months ago,” Picker said. “So I’m not quite sure what this is going to benefit. It’s done, it was voted on, the community spoke, people were aware of it, and we need to move on, to work as a community to move on.”

Annie Mendelson, another critic of the parking lot and a trustee in the Village of Great Neck, said safety has not come up in the past as part of the discussion and as there were “100 items in the bond,” many people “did not focus on one line item.

She also said the Great Neck Board of Education is going in the wrong direction.

“Their vision for the future is increasing traffic and increasing carbon emissions,” Mendelson said.

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