Due to increased enrollment at two of our elementary schools, Woodland and Lee, the board of education is faced with making a decision that will affect the lives of all Hicksville residents-our children, their parents and taxpayers. It is a decision that must be based on facts and educational philosophy, not on politics, private agendas and emotions. There is a current need for four (4) additional classrooms.
After many meetings, the Ad Hoc Committee on Facility Use, appointed by the board of education and with community input, submitted its report to the board. This committee presented options, not recommendations. The two options receiving the most discussion at this time are as follows:
1. Open East Street School as a K-5 school with redistricting, at a projected cost of $1,181,193, including $175,000 for a handicapped elevator. The actual cost to open this school could run several hundred thousand dollars more, and we would lose the annual lease income of $285,000.
2. Reclaim the eight (8) classrooms at Dutch Lane School currently being used by the Pre-K Special Education program and redistrict for greater leveling of class sizes and classroom use throughout the district.
Opening the East Street School with 25 classrooms (we currently only need four), was not one of the options researched and presented by the committee. In fact, the committee report specifically questions the willingness of the taxpayers to support such a costly plan.
The Pre-K Special Education program at Dutch Lane services 111 children, only 34 of whom are Hicksville residents. The remaining 77 students are bused in from other Nassau County school districts. It is of prime importance that our Pre-K Special Ed. children receive the services that they need. We have just extended the lease at Willet Avenue School with North Shore University Hospital Pre-K Special Education to continue its full service program at Willet until the year 2001. Our own Pre-K Special Ed. children can be adequately serviced at this school or in a similar program in close proximity to Hicksville at a fraction of the cost of opening a school.
With the funding cutbacks in this area already instituted by the state education department and with more cuts expected to come, the conclusion of the Ad Hoc Committee report states, "It may no longer be cost-effective to maintain the Pre-K Special Education Program at Dutch Lane School, if the reclaiming of the eight (8) classrooms at Dutch Lane would effectively address the overcrowding in Woodland and Lee Avenue Schools. Although this would necessitate redistricting, it would address the issue of parity and bring Dutch into line with the majority of the elementary schools." Further, the report states that this option "would be lower in cost and should provide a longer range solution to increased enrollments."
The expert on demographics from Applied Data Services reported at the Feb. 25 meeting that if we reclaim the eight (8) classrooms at Dutch Lane, we will have more than enough classrooms to meet the projected enrollment needs on a long-term basis.
The solution to the current and projected increased enrollment problem seems to be obvious based on the facts. The big question is whether or not the individual board members have the personal courage to vote for what is obviously best for all of Hicksville-and that is to reclaim the eight classrooms at Dutch Lane School for the use of our own Hicksville children.
Helen M. Lafferty