Voters to decide on $85.9M bond issue in G.N. schools

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Voters will go to the polls next Tuesday to decide whether the Great Neck school district can go forward with bonding for $85.9 million in projects that would address capital needs and educational enhancements in the district.

In October, school district officials and architects from Patchogue-based BBS Architecture introduced proposed plans for each of the district’s 18 school buildings aimed at addressing their critical needs. The cost of these projects is estimated at $51.7 million.

School district officials then presented plans in November for how $43.71 million would be spent on educational and school building improvements.

John Powell, the district’s assistant superintendent of business, said the proposed $95.41 million in spending would come from a bond issue of $85.9 million and about $9.51 million from reserves.

Roger Smith, BBS’ principal architect, has said the estimated costs were “all in” numbers, meaning they include construction costs, possible contingencies and other fees associated with the capital projects. It is also determined based on public contract bidding.

Of the $51.7 in proposed capital projects, Smith said roof reconstruction was one of the “larger pieces” of the proposal, as many of the district’s roofs were damaged or have moss growing due to water infiltration.

He said the roof work is expected to last the district between 25 and 30 years.

Smith said many of the windows and doors in the district are “truly past their life expectancy.”

He said window replacement work should last the district between 40 and 50 years.

There are many cracks in the brick walls of some of the district’s buildings, Smith said, and BBS would remove and replace bricks to fix the exterior of the buildings.

He said the masonry work should last the district between 40 and 50 years.

Of the $43.71 million in educational enhancements, many of the “areas of focus” that were detailed by Fred Seeba and Joe Rettig, architects from BBS, in November were related to renovated science labs and library and media centers, auditorium renovations, bathroom renovations and improved air conditioning and infrastructure in the district’s schools.

One of the biggest upgrades as part of the proposed bond would be the creation of a $6.58 million early childhood center, where children across the district would be offered a pre-kindergarten education, at the district’s Adult Learning Center on Clover Drive.

The district currently has a universal pre-kindergarten program at Parkville Elementary School, but the location is more convenient for students living in the southern half of the district.

Superintendent of Schools Teresa Prendergast said the transformation of the Clover Drive facility into an early childhood center would offer pre-kindergarten to students zoned to begin kindergarten at E.M. Baker Elementary School, Saddle Rock Elementary School and Lakeville Elementary School.

As the facility currently houses the Adult Learning Center, Supportive Environment for All Learners and Pupil Personnel Services programs, the district is proposing to construct a building at the Cumberland Adult Center to relocate those programs. The proposed building would cost about $9.8 million.

Prendergast said the early childhood center would also help alleviate overcrowding at E.M. Baker.

Board members have urged residents at past meetings to vote in favor of the bond referendum, with trustee Donald Ashkenase, who is serving his 12th term on the board, stating that the proposed bond issue is “one of the most important undertakings” the board has considered during his 35-year tenure.

Voting will take place on Feb. 14 between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.. Residents who live north of the Long Island Rail Road vote at the E.M. Baker School, located at 69 Baker Hill Road, while residents who live south of the LIRR vote at Great Neck South High School, which is located at 341 Lakeville Road.

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