Opinion

Building Schools Edition, Part III:

1. School district property tax rate, per $100 of assessed valuation in Fall 1946: $1.17; in Fall 1951: $2.93; in Fall 1956: $5.20; Fall 1961: $5.87; Fall 1966: $7.30 (actual dollars, not adjusted for inflation). Despite the school construction program, the property tax rate actually fell significantly two school years in a row, 1959-61, due to mass home construction in Manhasset Hills and Searingtown. In Fall 1915, the year a second classroom was finally added to the district schoolhouse, the tax rate was 20 cents per $100 of valuation

2. In the twenty years after the end of the Second World War, district residents spent slightly under $16 million for the siting, building and expansion of four elementary schools, two junior high schools and one senior high school (this does not include interest on bonds sold to raise these funds). Calculated into today's dollars, these expenditures come to approximately $119.5 million, or just under $119.9 million if the land for the current Herricks Community Center, purchased before the war, is included. Many costs have risen significantly since then and this kind of building program could not be replicated today at anything near that price

3. The cost of the land beneath the district's current five school buildings and the Herricks Community Center cost approximately $13.9 million when adjusted to today's dollars. Current tax assessment data place the market value for these properties (as of April 2008) at $205,558,260, an increase of about 1,478 percent in value

4. The sites for the Denton Avenue, Searingtown and Wickshire Schools were purchased in 1950, although it was decided to move ahead with construction on only two of the sites immediately. Neighborhood schools were highly desirable assets, and once locations were finalized, new rounds of intense housing development began nearby (School Drive opened as an access road to the future Herricks Middle School three years before construction on the school began and five years before the school actually opened)

5. The Searingtown and Wickshire Schools were built simultaneously from identical designs on matching construction budgets. The two schools were opened on the same day, March 17, 1952. Four years later, additions were made to the two schools, including multipurpose rooms. Eventually, extra classrooms were added to the Searingtown School, as enrollment in that school more than doubled from just over 400 in 1952-1953 to well over 800 in the mid-1960s

6. Wickshire School was located between Cary Road and Brussels Drive. At the time the purchase of the site was approved, housing developers had already completed the application process to construct houses there. These planned houses were in the precise configuration as the "Hunting Hill at Herricks" houses built on the site in 1978, 44 houses on two blocks. In 1950, the dividing street was to be called Norman Road. Today, it is Hunting Hill Road

7. Factoid: Bonds sold in 1951 to complete the construction of the Searingtown and Wickshire Schools were payable through 1979, four years after Wickshire closed as a school and two years after the building had been demolished

8. The Center Street and Denton Avenue Schools both opened in September 1957, although the Denton Avenue building was completed first and Center Street School was still partially under construction until 1958. The "footprints" of the two buildings were initially identical except for several additional classrooms in the middle wing at Denton Avenue. Additional rooms were added to the Center Street School during the 1960-61 school year. The district had purchased land along the south side of Tanners Pond Road in 1950, but the site was nearly doubled in size in 1955 to accommodate a building and athletic fields that were larger than originally envisioned

9. Several prominent local institutions were named for Shelter Rock in the early and mid-1960s. However, Shelter Rock Junior High School, now the Herricks Middle School, had a very direct connection to the name: It was built on the former Shelter Rock Golf and Country Club. Founded in 1921, the club was built on 102 acres along Searingtown and I.U. Willets Roads and was one of the region's elite golf centers. The eastern end of the club grounds were sold for housing in 1948 ("Wheatley Acres") and the rest of the property was sold in 1953


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