For the first time in East Meadow history, voters passed a joint bond, proposed by the school district and the public library, on March 7.
The vote — 2,031 to 835 — approved the $58.8 million initiative, $44.2 million of which will fund work on district schools, while $14.6 million will pay for upgrades at the library. The average East Meadow homeowner’s property taxes will increase by just over $57 per year for the next 15 years.
Schools Superintendent Leon Campo thanked voters for approving the bond. “This is an exciting time for our community,” Campo said in a statement. “We look forward to improving our schools for our students and for future generations to come.”
The bulk of the school district’s portion of the bond is earmarked for roof and skylight repairs, new air ventilation equipment and electrical infrastructure upgrades. Roofs and skylights will be repaired at East Meadow and Clarke high schools; Woodland Middle School; and Meadowbrook, Parkway, McVey, Bowling Green and Barnum Woods elementary schools. Ventilation equipment will be replaced at all of those schools except Meadowbrook and Parkway, and electrical systems will be upgraded districtwide.
Campo said that the roof upgrades are critical. “Should the district decide to move in the direction of solar energy in the future, the condition of our current roofs will not support the needed solar panels,” he said.
A large part of the school bond is also slated for improvements to athletic facilities, including upgrades to tennis courts at the high schools. The district also plans to add a grass football/multipurpose field at Clarke and two fields at East Meadow High.
“It’s important for residents to know that the district plans on restoring natural-grass-fields,” said Patrick Pizzo, assistant superintendent for business and finance. “We’re not using turf fields because of health concerns that have been linked to turf fields recently.”
Alisa Baroukh, of East Meadow, said she supported the bond because the schools — which Campo said are well over 60 years old — are long overdue for improvements. “Just like any 50-year-old home would need infrastructural upgrades, our schools need the same maintenance as well,” said Baroukh, who has three children in district schools. “I think this bond is a forward-thinking way of maintaining the schools, and it’s cost-effective to the taxpayers.”
She added that the same principle applies to the library’s portion of the bond. “We have a destination library,” she said. “Our library holds so many programs that people from across Long Island travel to. It needs upgrades.”
Adam Sackowitz, of East Meadow, who voted “no,” said that not enough residents cast ballots. “It was honestly disappointing to see such a low turnout,” he said. “I think there’s a lot of waste in the bond. There are some things that I do agree with — like infrastructure upgrades to both the library and the school — but I still disagree with the library’s proposed courtyard.”
The library plans to construct an outdoor reading garden, which will be open during library hours. Library officials also plan to renovate the entrance to the building by replacing the windows and adding a seating area.
“We plan on strategically adding trees near the front as well,” said Rocco Cassano, the facility’s assistant director. “During the summer months, the trees will provide shade, and [they will] allow natural light to filter through the windows during the winter.”
Library Director Carol Probeyahn said that the vote results reassured the staff that residents support its plans. “We want to thank the community for the overwhelming support,” Probeyahn said. “It was a wonderful vote of confidence for us. We will strive to do the best for the community.”
The plan is to begin the work next spring, she said, which will include the construction of a 250-seat multipurpose room with tiered seating, to host many library programs. The building has not undergone major renovations since 1983.
According to school district officials, upgrades are expected to be completed by the summer of 2020.