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"We need the bond to pass"

Tour reveals safety issues in aging high school

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Victoria Galante, the Glen Cove City School District’s assistant superintendent of business, and Board of Education Vice President Monica Alexandris-Miller discussed the dire need for repairs and upgrades at Glen Cove High School during a public tour of the building last Saturday.

The tour revealed a school long compromised by aging infrastructure, where ceiling tiles are damaged or missing, air conditioning systems are supported by boarded-up windows, science tables have not been updated since the 1960s and doors and locks are decidedly low tech.

While the district has managed to patch up some of the problems through the years, Alexandris-Miller said that residents needed to approve the $78 million bond referendum next Tuesday in order to make real improvements to district schools.

“No district can do anything big without a bond,” she said. “All our buildings are between 50 to 100 years old. They need renovations.”

The bond vote is the district’s second attempt to bring widespread changes to the schools, after residents rejected an $84.6 million bond in March. While the school was preparing for that vote, nearly half the ceiling tiles in the high school library collapsed. Galante explained that those tiles, which are all over the school, are so old that they aren’t even made anymore in the U.S.

Although the ceiling was repaired, and new tiles and LED light panels were installed, the other half of the library, which has the student seating area, still has the older tiles.

More broken, missing and deteriorated tiles were visible throughout the tour. Galante said that it wasn’t rare for tiles to start breaking again only days after they were patched up.

The other focus of the tour was safety — for example, the fact that the stairwells lack fire safety doors, which are now required. Galante added that many of the school’s doors lack new safety protocols. Several have breakable glass within reach of the door handles, and some exit doors have handles that could be chained together, a serious safety issue.

“Most schools only have the bars to push the doors open,” Galante said. “These doors need to be upgraded and have autolocks installed for security and safety.”

She said she was also concerned about the setup of the cafeteria, which students enter from a hallway through two doors, making their way to lunchrooms to the left and right of the kitchen. She said that the layout forces students to wait in the hallways, and the overcrowding can prevent them from getting to classes on time, or leave them exposed in the event of a lockdown. The bond would allow the school to create one large cafeteria to address those issues.

In the science classrooms, there were worn lab tables and broken blinds. Alexandris-Miller said that because students sometimes work with chemicals that shouldn’t be exposed to direct sunlight, they tape aluminum foil to the windows to make up for missing blinds. She added that while the district has secured state grants to help pay for upgraded lab tables, it needs the help of the bond to supplement the expense.

The bond would also help the high school bring certain rooms into compliance with the American with Disabilities Act, including the music room, cafeteria and several restrooms.

At the end of the tour, Alexandris-Miller said that the school’s problems could not go unaddressed any longer, and that many of them could be found at buildings throughout the district. Superintendent Maria Riana has also urged residents to pass the bond referendum, which focuses on the most serious problems in all six school buildings.

“We’ve been doing capital improvement projects every year now for the past six years, but it’s too slow a process to be able to fix everything that needs to get done,” Riana said. “We need the bond to pass.”

The referendum has split into two propositions. Proposition No. 1 lists the district’s “critical needs,” and is estimated at $53 million. Proposition No. 2 would go toward “essential needs,” and is estimated at $23 million. Proposition No. 2 cannot be approved on its own. The vote is scheduled for 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, at Glen Cove High School and Connolly Elementary School.