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School Closing

Bellerose Elementary might be closing in Northport School District. Photo by Lina Weingarten

Members of the Northport-East Northport Board of Education discussed their opinions and preferences surrounding the district’s proposed future plan, ultimately approving a motion to implement one of the scenarios in the 2021-2022 school year. 

In a Dec. 3 virtual board meeting and workshop, the board unanimously approved a motion to implement Adapted Scenario A for the upcoming year — which involves closing Dickinson Avenue and Bellerose Avenue elementary schools. According to the Northport-East Northport district website, it also converts the remaining four elementary schools to grades K-4, and both middle schools will house grades 5-8. The high school remains the same, with grades 9-12.

“The priority throughout this entire process, going back over a year ago now, was to maintain the diversity and excellence of the educational program, and that includes class size goals,” Superintendent Robert Banzer said at the meeting. 

The front of Dickinson Elementary School. Photo by Lina Weingarten

Scenario A was developed in consultation with the SES Study Team, which began in June 2019, and reviewed by the Community Advisory Committee. Since its inception, Banzer said, the district heard from nearly 1,900 participants within the community, after asking what priorities the district should consider throughout their planning. 

“I do want to thank everybody for your participation in this process and giving us and the board the opportunity to hear from you,” he said. 

According to the district, the savings that could be saved from utilizing Scenario A would be between $5.2-6.6 million. 

The board also decided that the Brosnan building will continue to house administration unless a guaranteed buyer purchases the building, which would generate significant funds. 

This planning process was implemented to create a “roadmap” for future decisions surrounding the district in a cost-effective way but will continue to benefit students and members of the community. 

The district also noted on their website that many factors influenced the decision to implement the Future Study — primarily declining enrollment and the pending LIPA settlement.

They stated that since 2014, district enrollment has declined significantly from 5,748 students in the 2014-2015 school years, to 5,138 in the 2019-2020 school year. The decrease of 610 pupils equates to a -10.6% change over the past six years. 

According to the district’s website, the LIPA suit settlement, agreed upon by the Town of Huntington Board in September 2020, will result in a reduction of LIPA’s tax payments to the district from $86 million to $46 million over the next seven years. This settlement will result in an increase in property tax payments for community home and business owners. The Future Study will help to mitigate this increase. 

This map depicts the new territories for Tackan and Mount Pleasant elementary schools. The teal and lime green sections were formerly Branch Brook territory. The purple section represented Mount Pleasant territory before the changes. The orange section represented Tackan territory before the changes. The purple and teal sections will make up Mount Pleasant territory beginning in 2017-18, and the orange and lime green will become Tackan territory. Image from Smithtown administration

Branch Brook parents finally have some clarity after months of debate, anger and sadness.

Since November 2015, it has been unclear where Smithtown school district residents who send their kids to Branch Brook Elementary School, one of the district’s eight currently open elementary schools, will be sending their kids when Branch Brook closes ahead of the 2017-18 school year. At a board of education meeting Tuesday, Superintendent James Grossane announced which of his five proposed plans and one parent-proposed sixth option he would be selecting, which he was charged with doing by the board after they voted to close Branch Brook in February.

Grossane chose Option 4, which has been amended since the options were introduced about eight months ago, but includes most of the main points. Fifty-nine percent of current Branch Brook families will be attending Mount Pleasant Elementary in the fall of 2017, while the remaining 41 percent will move to Tackan Elementary School, according to Grossane.

Branch Brook territory is currently bordered to the east by Southern Boulevard, which meets the southern border at Townline Road. The northeastern corner of Branch Brook territory is the corner of Smithtown Bypass and Southern Boulevard. A few neighborhoods north of Smithtown Bypass and east of Terry Road are currently Branch Brook. The western border includes a large chunk of Smithtown Bypass, then splits and heads directly south to meet Townline Road near Helen Avenue.

The new district lines will use Terry Road, which becomes Smithtown Boulevard south of Smithtown Bypass, as a dividing line. Homes east of Terry Road that were Branch Brook territory will now be Tackan, while the west side of Terry Road will be Mount Pleasant, with some exceptions.

Grossane left the door open to the possibility of keeping students who would have been fifth-graders in Branch Brook in 2017-18 together, sending them all to Tackan for that year, though he said that is not ideal.

“There’s going to be quite a few students from Branch Brook in either building in each classroom, so no one will be alone,” Grossane said, which should somewhat ease a concern parents of Branch Brook students raised throughout the process, that changing schools could be traumatic and difficult for young kids.

The redrawing of lines will also alter the feeder system to the district’s two high schools, though Grossane said he will give families the option of keeping their younger children on track to attend one of the two high schools if the family already has older kids at one, to avoid having a family with kids in different high schools.

Grossane said both Tackan and Mount Pleasant will be operating at about 93 percent of their capacity during 2017-18, but the class sizes for both schools should remain below the district’s preferred average size of 28 students.

At least one Mount Pleasant parent and PTA member was glad to hear students in no school other than Branch Brook would be displaced as a result of the closure and subsequent redrawing of district lines.

“Thank you very much Dr. Grossane for not removing any Mount Pleasant students who are currently enrolled, and I want to say welcome to the Branch Brook family,” Deb Phillips said during the meeting Tuesday. “You are going to love Mount Pleasant. … There’s so many great things, and we welcome you with open arms.”

A transitional committee will begin meeting in the coming weeks and months to handle the mechanics of the changes. The committee will include administrators and principals from all three applicable elementary schools.