Rockville Centre school bond debated


The Rockville Centre Board of Education trustees held their Oct. 23 regular public meeting to discuss a potential bond to address outstanding infrastructure issues at each of the district’s buildings.

The meeting was the second public discussion of the possibility of the bond and focused on the proposed work on the district’s elementary schools. The previous meeting, on Sept. 27, focused on work proposed for South Side High School and South Side Middle School.

Architects from BBS, the firm that has worked with the district on its long-range plans, were on hand to present different options for renovations at the schools, along with construction timetables and costs.

Among the most costly improvements suggested for the elementary schools is the addition of classrooms and multi-purpose rooms, which would cost the district upwards of $10 million if it were to approve the additions for every school.

“We’re not going to be able to predict by the building what our [student] population looks like,” said Superintendent Dr. William Johnson. “There isn’t any evidence that I have that is real that would suggest that we’re going to be dealing with continued growth. I don’t have any evidence that would suggest we need to add classrooms throughout the buildings.”

Other possible improvements for the schools include a parent drop-off loop for Hewitt Elementary, a replaced sewer line and drainage for Watson Elementary and roof replacement for Covert Elementary.

One of the items being discussed for the high school calls for the elimination of the ‘portables’ at its east end. These temporary structures have been serving as overflow instructional space for more than 30 years, and have long outlived their usefulness. Another significant improvement contemplated at the high school would be the modernization and revamping of its science labs.

When one resident pointed out near the end of the bond discussion that the total cost of all the improvements mentioned would be tens of millions of dollars, Liz Dion, Board of Education president, was quick to point out that not all of the recommendations made would be added to the bond.

“One of the biggest questions we get right now is how much is the bond,” Dion said. “We don’t know how much the bond is. These are the requests and recommendation. They come from… the schools and they come from the architect’s invoice.”

A school bond focused on SSHS improvements was brought to a vote in 2009, Dion said, and had been just more than $30 million. The bond was voted down by the public.

“It was similar to what we’re talking about with the high school [now],”

Dion said. “The needs haven’t changed. There are safety issues.”

According to Dion, the board will go back and say yes or no to the listed recommendations and requests for the SSHS at the next public meeting, on Nov. 5. She added that the board of education needs a final number on how much the bond will be by the Dec. 11 meeting.

Dion stressed the importance of hearing from the community on what changes to the buildings they support.

“We are trying to engage the community as much as possible to get their input,” Dion said. “We need their support. Send us an email; write to our blog; write to the Herald. Let us know.”

Dion said the board would present a bond vote to the public on Feb. 5, 2013.