Last year at this time, Garden City was buzzing about the $50 million proposed bond issue and all of the details presented in the September 1997 Capital Improvements Master Plan. After the defeat of that plan by the voters last year, the public eye has remained focused on the efforts of seven citizens recommended by the POAs, the PTA, and SEPTA, who have comprised the Ad Hoc Citizens Advisory Committee. Thursday, Oct. 1, this committee and the architectural firm engaged by the Board of Education at the Committee's recommendation, Peter Gisolfi Associates, presented the new 1998 Draft Report. Naturally, the question most people have been asking for months now is, "How much?" With the total amount of the last bond having been cited as the primary reason for its failure, most people have been anxiously awaiting the release of the total for this year's proposed plan. This year's figure is listed at: $37,670,000.
If the plan were approved by the voters as it is currently written, the high school would see a total of $13,103,000 worth of work; the middle school would see $8,320,000 worth of work; Stratford School would see $6,955,000 worth of work; Stewart School would see $5,620,000 worth of work; Hemlock would see $1,277,000 worth of work; Locust would see $1,212,000 worth of work; and Homestead would see $1,183,000 worth of work.
The costs for each school are broken down by the following categories: sitework, which consists of the improvements to be made to the grounds of the school, including such items as parking field improvements and athletic grounds rehabilitation; exterior integrity, which consists of the work needed on the facades and roofing of the buildings; interior integrity, which consists of surfaces within the buildings, such as floors and ceilings; health, safety and handicapped access, which relates to Americans with Disabilities Act requirements, fire safety, and overall conditions within the buildings in terms of the students' physical well-being; additions for population expansion, which includes rearranging space and constructing new space to meet the demographic projections; space alterations for program needs, reorganizing space to meet the needs of the academic and administrative programs; building systems, which includes heating, electrical, and plumbing issues; and finally, computer technology infrastructure and communications, which not only includes computers, but the public address and telephone systems.
Additions for population expansion comprise the majority of the costs, at a total of $12,080,000 for the district. The demographics were prepared by Western Suffolk BOCES ( a different supplier than for the last bond, as the demographics were a contended point in the last bond issue) and predict that the enrollment levels throughout the district will rise to a total of 4,554 students in K-12 in the year 2008. The total enrollment for the distrcit in 1997 was 3,444 and is reported at 3,582 for 1998. The predicted 27 percent increase for the 2008-2009 school year from this year's enrollment, while reflecting a significant increase, is dramatically smaller an increase than was predicted in the demographics that were prepared for the 1997 bond. The 1997 figures predicted a 51 percent increase from 1997-98 and 2007-2008, 32 percent higher than BOCES' figures.
Kenneth Monaghan of the Ad Hoc Committee, explained that the committee had decided not to build for the 2008-2009 peak predicted for the high school, as they believed building for a figure ten years from happening would not be wise. Rather, they would prefer to keep a watchful eye on the demographics, having studies done routinely throughout the next ten years, remaining mindful of the uncertainty of migration patterns and the difficulty of predicting how many students enrolled in the public schools will opt to attend a private high school after their 8th grade commencement. This year, according to School Board Trustee Brian Rudy, who expressed concerns about the demographics presented, 15 percent of the 8th grade did not return as 9th-graders in the district to attend Garden City High School. Monaghan explained that the majority of the additions work would be taking place at the primaries and elementary schools, where the peak would be felt sooner, although the high school's total for additions for population expansion stands at $4,050,000, a significantly higher figure than any one school in the district, and only $3,980,000 less than the total for all of the other schools combined.
Rudy expressed his concern about the demographics by saying that, "If you go back to Dr. Bishop's numbers, [the figures used in 1997] he predicted that 303 students would be in the 6th grade now, and this year we have 303. Overall, he was only off by 2 percent for this year. Where did Western BOCES get their figures that they're so different from Dr. Bishop's? OK, BOCES predicted how many kids would show up for kindergarten this year; even I could have predicted how many kids showed up this year. One year is not that hard." In response to assertions that Western BOCES has demonstrated their accuracy at districts like Jericho and Roslyn, he stated, "When parents come to us and want to know why there's no room, I can't say, 'Go to Roslyn or Jericho, she [demographer for BOCES] was accurate there!'"
Tom Lamberti, who had volunteered to assist the Ad Hoc Committee with the demographics and on the Legal Subcommittee, explained that Western Suffolk BOCES is the demographer "of choice" for both Nassau and Suffolk County schools, as well as for the Counties themselves. He said that they have an "impeccable track record" and that their "forecasts are highly regarded and well recieved." He characterized their work as "very careful" and explained that they have "a wealth of data" with which to work. Monaghan also explained that the Ad Hoc Committee figured in a 3 percent margin of error into their plans, so that they would plan work for the peak figures plus 3 percent more. He also stated that should it turn out that they have underbuilt, the additional work could be written into an annual budget and completed quickly.
The total work at each school can be broken down as follows: at GCHS, 31 percent - additions for population, 22 percent - space alteration for program needs, 11 percent - exterior integrity, 10 percent - interior integrity, 9 percent - health and ADA, 9 percent - sitework, 5 percent - technology, and 3 percent - building systems; at Hemlock 38 percent - additions, 21 percent - health and ADA, 14 percent - technology, 8 percent - sitework, 7 percent - program needs, 6 percent - building systems, 6 percent - interior integrity, and 0 percent - exterior integrity; at Homestead, 38 percent - additions for population expansion, 21 percent - health and ADA, 13 percent - technology, 9 percent - sitework, 7 percent - space for programs, 6 percent - building systems, 6 percent - interior integrity, 6 percent - building systems, and 0 percent - exterior integrity; at Locust 38 percent - population, 23 percent - ADA and health, 13 percent - technology, 7 percent - sitework, 7 percent - program space, 6 percent - building systems, 6 percent - interior integrity, and 0 percent is for exterior integrity; at Stratford 34 percent - population expansion, 20 percent - exterior integrity, 14 percent - health and ADA, 13 percent - building systems, 9 percent - space for program needs, 5 percent - sitework, 4 percent - technology, and 1 percent - interior integrity; at Stewart 41 percent - population additions, 20 percent - health and ADA, 13 percent - building systems, 9 percent - sitework, 6 percent - technology, 6 percent - interior integrity, 4 percent - program space, and 1 percent - interior integrity; and at GCMS 26 percent - space alterations for programs, 24 percent - population additions, 15 percent - exterior integrity, 12 percent - interior integrity, 12 percent - health and ADA, 5 percent - building systems, 3 percent - technology, and 3 percent - sitework.
Mothers of children in the primary school expressed concern that their children are eating lunch in multi-purpose rooms rather than an actual cafeteria, and one mother indicated concern that the bathrooms closest to the multi-purpose rooms are not designed as children's bathrooms, rather as adult facilities, forcing the children to either use the adult facilities or travel back to the children's facilities in their classrooms. Ad Hoc members and architect Peter Gisolfi explained that the facilities meet requirements, and that creating a bathroom in some situations would require breaking through concrete, making it too costly, however, Gisolfi did state that he will go back and revisit this aspect of their plans. Committee members also reminded everyone that this is a draft, subject to changes.
The high school band room was also a point of discussion. Trustee Rudy stated that he did not feel that the proposed changes would provide the musical group with enough space. Parent Donna Masterson also noted that she thinks that the stage in the auditorium is insufficient for the band's performances, stating, "at concerts I've held my breath thinking that Mr. McCrann [band director] would fall off the stage [while conducting]." Gisolfi firm members stated that they had planned the expansion of the band room with the focus group and band's input in mind, but that the plans are not finalized, and plans to watch a full band practice to get a better vision of the needs for the room have been made. Peter Gisolfi said that this is another part of the plan that is still under review and that further alterations to the plan may be made. Changes to the stage size were not part of the plan, and no input from focus groups had indicated a need, according to the Gisolfi firm. Monaghan explained that the instrumental groups at the high school have become too big and that the school may need to look into breaking the band down into two different groups. He forsees that it will likely be necessary to change the way the musical groups are structured and added that by doing so and working with scheduling, the band room may then be adequate as planned.
Concerns were aired about the safety of the students during construction periods, and Ad Hoc members stated that the role of the construction manager would be to supervise the work and ensure the students' safety. Also, the architectural firm has agreed to be present at the site and has demonstrated a record of maintaining safety at their other sites. The construction management firm has not yet been engaged by the Board of Education; the Ad Hoc Committee presented the name of the firm they were recommending at this meeting. Eileen Murphy, president of the EPOA, asked if they would release the name of the firm being recommeded, but Board of Ed President Linda Leone declined to release the name, stating that the Board had only received the information that night and felt it would be inappropriate at that time.
Joan Barnes expressed concern that the therapy rooms in the K-1 schools may be lost to classroom space later, should the space be needed, and urged the Board to ensure that this space would be available to the children who need it. Monaghan said that even if this space were "captured" later, there would be "a number of different venues" that could address the need of the therapy rooms.
It was also stated that the contingency fee is 27 percent for the Gisolfi firm. Gisolfi said that of that 27 percent, 13 percent is for soft costs, which includes escalation of design contingency and unexpected change orders. Contractural matters were a major issue in the 1997 bond, but Ad Hoc members assure the public that this year the contracts designed by the Legal Subcommittee allow the district more flexibility and will not end in a situation similar to the one with Wiedersum, where the bond was defeated and that project abandoned, and the final amount owed to the firm was questionable. At the Sept. 28 meeting, it was resolved that the Board would settle all outstanding claims with a payment of $250,000.
Several more presentations are planned throughout the Village. (There was a presentation to the CPOA on Tuesday, Oct. 6.) The Eastern POA will host the Ad Hoc Committee and Peter Gisolfi and Associates on Thursday, Oct. 8 at 8 p.m. in Stewart School and EPOA President Eileen Murphy says all Village residents are welcome to attend. The Estates will hear the presentation on Oct. 14 at 8 p.m. in Stratford School. The PTA and SEPTA will have their presentation on Oct. 16 beginning at 9 p.m. in the middle school. The final POA presentation currently scheduled is the WPOA's presentation on Nov. 10 at 8 p.m. in Homestead School. The WPOA presentation will be taking place after the Board is scheduled to approve the proposal, so residents, such as James Bressingham, concerned that the WPOA residents will not have a chance to provide input in the plan before it is adopted, are encouraged by EPOA directors to feel free to attend their meeting on Oct. 8.
Committee Chairman John Sullivan has said that invitations have been sent to "influential" members of the community in the hopes that not only they would attend meetings, but that they would encourage neighbors to also attend. John Maulk concluded the meeting by saying, "If everyone in this room called 10 of their friends and encouraged them to attend and in turn call people they know, it would get the word out."