A little more than two weeks after a half-dozen parents protested the poor condition of the visitors’ bleachers at Mepham High School during a Board of Education meeting, the board convened a special afternoon session on May 24 to discuss a fix for the problem.
The board reviewed four possible options for the old wooden bleachers, which have worn or rotted out in sections, and, parents said, may present a safety hazard. Options ranged from repairing and painting the bleachers at a cost of $10,000 to replacing them with aluminum bleachers for more than $90,000.
The Board of Education decided to move ahead with installing aluminum bleachers. “Being a Mepham parent…I don’t think anything is acceptable…unless we totally replace the structure,” said Trustee JoAnn DeLauter, of North Bellmore.
Trustee Dr. Matthew Kuschner, of North Merrick, echoed DeLauter, saying that repairing the bleachers would be “a waste of money.”
And Trustee Dr. Nancy Kaplan, of Merrick, said, “Even though it’s the most expensive option, we should redo it.”
Superintendent Dr. Henry Kiernan said the district would send a letter to the New York State Department of Education on Tuesday, expressing the board’s intent to replace the bleachers. The project must receive state approval before the district can move ahead with installing new bleachers. Kiernan said the approval process would likely take six weeks. It might normally take longer, he said, but it would likely receive fast-track treatment because the project would bring Mepham’s bleachers into compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which requires handicapped accessibility. The current bleachers do not comply with the act.
After approval is won, “We should be able to get ready to roll for the fall,” Kiernan said.
It wasn’t entirely clear how the Central District would pay for the new bleachers, as Kiernan said it has depleted its capital reserve fund, which is used to pay for such projects. “It’s gone,” the superintendent said. But officials said the district should be able to find a way to pay for the new bleachers.
The bleachers should seat 960, though district Athletic Director Saul Lerner said he believed that estimate might be optimistic.