Tags Posts tagged with "Handicap accessible"

Handicap accessible

Xavier Palacios file photo by Rohma Abbas

Huntington school district may soon make ramps and restrooms more accessible to people with disabilities.

The school board approved the addition of the capital reserve proposition to the May 17 ballot with a six to one vote at a meeting on March 21.

If passed, the proposition would use almost $2.5 million of the district’s building improvement fund, or capital reserve, to update eight Huntington schools and make them compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Superintendent Jim Polansky said the desire to become compliant with the ADA was not mandated, but it’s possible the state could block other capital improvement propositions if ADA requirements within a district are not met.

“There are some needs that really should have been addressed as far back as 20 years ago,” Polansky said at the meeting. “We’re not looking to refit the entire building. We’re looking to just put the basics in place. Those basics are ramps and at least one bathroom.”

Polansky said there are contingency plans in place for emergencies that might arise during the course of a school year which would require a ramp in or out of a Huntington district building, but this proposition would provide permanent solutions.

J. Taylor Finley Middle School, Jack Abrams STEM Magnet School and Flower Hill Primary School are among several of the buildings that would be equipped with ADA-compliant restrooms. ADA-compliant ramps would be added to a few schools, including Woodhull Intermediate School, Jefferson Primary School and Huntington High School. The high school would also get an ADA-compliant wheelchair lift and a compliant locker room restroom.

Xavier Palacios was the lone board member against adding the proposition to the ballot.

“These ADA requirements or suggestions have been around for almost two decades and we’ve submitted several capital proposals and they’ve never been stopped in the past, have they?” Palacios asked prior to the vote.

Polansky called it a roll of the dice to submit a different capital proposition to the state prior to making the ADA-compliant upgrades. “Aside from the fact that I think it’s the right thing to do,” he added.

“How do we prioritize this over needing a new roof?” Palacios asked.

Another board member, Jennifer Hebert, weighed in on the discussion.

“We don’t want to have a student showing up needing these kinds of accommodations and have to be retrofitting it as they’re in the building,” Hebert said. “We should do it now, so that if and when we have students that have these needs, we’ve already got everything equipped for them in the building.”

The state comptroller’s office released an audit report in March, which concluded Huntington exceeded the amount of money legally allowed in capital reserves for the previous three school years. By law, a district cannot have more than 4 percent of the ensuing school year’s budget saved in capital reserves, according to the report. Any money over that limit must be used to make improvements in the district. Thus, this proposition would help the district use the money currently sitting in its reserve fund.

by -
0 1400
A new model will invite kids to Rocketship Park. Photo from Port Jefferson Village

By Elana Glowatz

The new Rocketship Park’s entrance will be a blastoff to the past.

A new model will invite kids to Rocketship Park. Photo from Port Jefferson Village
A new model will invite kids to Rocketship Park. Photo from Port Jefferson Village

Port Jefferson Village announced on Tuesday that TRITEC Real Estate Company has built and donated a rocket ship model to go in the playground once it’s reconstructed, paying tribute to its past.

While it’s formally known as Clifton H. Lee Memorial Park or Kip Lee Park, the spot off Barnum Avenue at Roessner Lane got the Rocketship nickname from a popular piece of playground equipment that has since aged out of use. Some residents have lamented the loss of the rocket and the fact that the design plans for the new park, which began forming a few years ago, didn’t include one.

The plans call for more natural-looking playground equipment with a high level of handicap-accessibility, including what looks like a giant tree house and a pirate ship that harkens back to the village’s shipbuilding days. There are also plans for swings with different types of seating, walkways, picnic tables, plantings and other play equipment.

Adrienne Kessel, the chair of the Treasure Your Parks Committee that has fundraised for the park reconstruction and operates under the Port Jefferson Harbor Education and Arts Conservancy, previously said play equipment that looks like a rocket is hard to find.

Kessel launched the effort to revamp the downtown children’s park when she was a village trustee. After looking at security features in the wake of vandalism at the site, Kessel saw the need for a full makeover.

“It began with a conversation about adding better lighting but that wasn’t the answer,” she said in a previous interview. “When we went to fix the damaged pieces, we weren’t able to find them. The equipment was obsolete.”

She focused on increased accessibility for kids with special needs because, “Every child should have the chance to play. I couldn’t imagine a park a child couldn’t utilize.”

The reconstruction is expected to cost roughly $550,000 and as of this week, village spokeswoman Jill Russell said, the committee had brought in more than $200,000 toward that goal, between donations of both money and services.

According to the village’s rocket announcement, the first work phase is scheduled to start in October.

TRITEC, which is also working on an apartment complex on the other side of Barnum Avenue at West Broadway, built the rocket ship so that when the park is redone, it “will serve as a lasting reminder of the original rocket ship that first graced the park in 1972,” the village said in a statement.

The company worked on the project for the nonprofit Long Island Home Builders Care, with the help of Huntington-based Kleet Lumber Co., Long Island-based Pro-Coat Painting, and sprinkler system contractor Central Outdoor Services in Port Jefferson Station.

“The model will be placed alongside the entranceway to the new playground and will incorporate ornamental plaques into the design that will highlight the park’s history as well as the generous contributions from the playground’s in-kind donors,” the village said.

Russell explained that the historical information will make mention of the previous rocket: “So that when you come to Rocketship Park, you actually know why it’s called that.”

School building handicap accessibility, communication between parents and staff at top of list of concerns

Flanked by members of SEPTA, Stacey Riccardi presents a letter of requests for special education students to the Northport-East Northport school board on Monday, June 15. Photo by Victoria Espinoza

Parents and teachers of disabled students have called on the Northport-East Northport school board to address issues ranging from communication to handicap accessibility in the district.

The members of the district’s special education parent teacher association, known as SEPTA, presented a letter of requests to the board at its meeting on June 15 on behalf of the more than 900 Northport-East Northport students classified as having a disability.

Stacey Riccardi, SEPTA vice president, presented the letter and urged the board to “ensure that the needs of our most vulnerable students be met.”

The group plans to submit the letter to the board again on July 1, once incoming superintendent Robert Banzer is present.

The letter requests the district conduct an internal audit of the special education department, with the investigation going back to 2010, when the last assistant superintendent of pupil services, John Lynch, retired and the position was eliminated.

Members of SEPTA say that since then, the lines of communication between parents and the administration have been compromised.

“We’re being held at arms-length as parents; there seems to be a disconnect between the parents and the special ed department,” Cathy Josephson, SEPTA recording secretary, said in a phone interview.

Outgoing longtime school board Trustee Stephen Waldenburg Jr. said another employee absorbed Lynch’s duties, adding that just because a position is eliminated, does not mean those responsibilities are eliminated as well.

“Once Lynch retired, those needs were not ignored; the tasks were taken on under a new title.”

The letter also highlighted other needs, like the elementary and middle school playgrounds becoming compliant with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act — for example, being outfitted with special swing sets — as well as school building entrances. SEPTA members pointed out that entrances to multiple schools in the district are not handicap-accessible, or some that are accessible are only open during school hours and are locked after school hours, when clubs are meeting.

Waldenburg countered, however, that, “There is no intent from the board to be out of compliance,” Waldenburg Jr. said.

“Our buildings and grounds team consistently analyze school facilities and completes upgrades through capitol improvement projects, which are reviewed and approved by the State Education Department,” Thomas Caramore,  interim superintendent of Northport-East Northport said in a statement.

Aside from making facilities more accessible for students with special needs, SEPTA is eager for a more inclusive learning environment. Josephson has a daughter in a wheelchair who was enrolled in the Northport-East Northport school district from second grade to eighth grade. However, she attends high school outside the district, at a facility that has the resources to meet her special needs.

“These students live in this community,” Josephson said. “Why can’t they get an education here as well?”

Caramore said that no student in the district has ever been denied services due to accessibility, and that students have remained educated in their home schools.

“Our schools should be as inclusive as possible to ensure the special education student has access to the least restrictive environment,” according to the letter presented to the board. It refers to the fact that many disabled students who live in the Northport-East Northport district, like Josephson’s daughter, do not attend school in the district because the schools do not always have the facilities, programs or educators to ensure a proper education for the them. Disable students are frequently enrolled in BOCES instead.

SEPTA wants special needs students to be able to “access the same school their siblings and neighbors attend.”

Caramore said that the community’s concerns are being heard.

“The board and administration will continue to carefully review the concerns raised by the members of the community.”