By Harry To
At the Northport-East Northport school district board of education meeting April 13, it was revealed that the board has selected Educational Impact Statement: Adapted Scenario A for a schools closure plan. The board intends to hold a vote for the implementation of the closures April 29.
The plan originally involved the closure of Dickinson Avenue and Bellerose Avenue elementary schools, with students attending East Northport Middle School for grades 5-6 and Northport Middle School for grades 7-8.
It is now planned the two schools would both house grades 5-8, a change that a socioeconomic status study claims would save an estimated annual minimum of $5,200,000 to $6,600,000.
According to the EIS, the rationale behind closing the two elementary schools is as follows:
• Dickinson Avenue is being closed due to about $6.2 million in required renovation costs over the next five years, weak building structure according to the district architect, and its unique building layout — the school is made up of stand-alone building pods that require students to walk outside to access them. This leads to a cost of $500,000 annually in maintaining pupil safety through the need for additional teacher aide staff.
• Bellerose Avenue Elementary School is being closed due to having the smallest pupil capacity among the elementary schools, high upkeep costs and the ability to relocate district offices to the school based on its central location.
All of these elements make these two elementary schools prime targets for closure, according to planners.
The EIS is a result of the school district reevaluating its budget due to dwindling enrollment and the buildings being underutilized. Another factor, according to the EIS, was the “recent settlement of certain tax certiorari proceedings brought by the Long Island Power Authority and others against the Town of Huntington concerning the assessed value of the Northport Power Plant,” also “tax levy affordability by local property taxpayers.”
For a while now, enrollment in the district has declined significantly, falling from 5,748 pupils in the 2014-15 school year to 5,138 in the 2019-20 school year.
The K-12 Pupil Capacity Analysis Report dated January 2020 found that the unused pupil capacity in the six elementary schools in the 2019-20 school year ranged from 17.3% to 44.5% as guided by the district’s class-size guidelines.
Using data from the report, planners opted to move elementary school students to the nearby East Northport and Northport middle schools based on 70.8% and 65.2% of pupil capacity respectively. The high school was at 86.5% pupil capacity.
These issues were further exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, putting the focus on the improper utilization of the buildings.
In the meeting, the board announced upcoming dates:
• On April 27, there will be a public hearing on the proposed two elementary school closures regarding Adapted Scenario A. The board members emphasized that this is not the vote.
• On April 29, the board will vote on the proposed school closures.
A virtual town hall Q&A meeting with Superintendent Robert Banzer on the reorganization plan was held April 20.