The Levittown Board of Education's Nov. 29 special meeting at Levittown Memorial Education Center spurred interest from residents as over 100 people showed up to take part in the ongoing Salk/MacArthur Traffic Study discussion.
Assistant Superintendent for Business and Finance Jeffrey Carlson summarized the history of the plan by saying, "there have been studies on improving traffic safety in this area for at least 20 years."
Nelson & Pope, the engineering firm hired approximately eight months ago, offered their first proposal for changes in June.
"The first proposal was the ironclad approach," explained Superintendent Dr. Herman Sirois.
It was rejected by the board because it seemed too costly and not feasible.
Gregory Boulanger from Nelson & Pope was on hand to outline the current plan step by step and address questions and concerns. He said the main issue is that these schools were not made to accommodate as many cars as there are now.
"There are not as many people taking the bus anymore," Boulanger said. "That's creating the extra traffic."
The latest strategy has raised some debate across town as there is a proposed land swap on the table between the Levittown School District and the Wantagh Fire Department, whose building is adjacent to MacArthur High School on Wantagh Avenue. The Wantagh Fire Department would take the area parallel to Wantagh Avenue as their new road for when they respond to emergencies as well as the tennis courts, which would be demolished. The district would retain the area of the electronic sign.
The Wantagh Fire Department would then lose most of its back parking lot as they would only have the 63-feet directly behind the building, and the rest of that property would be MacArthur's. This is where the debate begins as the school district would be giving up .17 acres of land/7,500 square feet.
In addition to the swap, the school bus drop off point would move to the area between Salk Middle School and MacArthur as additional faculty parking would be added behind Salk to make up for what is lost between the two schools. Overall, parking spaces would increase from 445 to 470.
The overall projected cost of this project, including the $550,000 to construct new tennis courts, which would be installed on the northernmost point of the field parallel to Wantagh Avenue, would be between $1 and $1.5 million.
Residents were displeased with the proposed plan - including some who said there has to be an alternative solution to losing over one-sixth of an acre of land. Ideas included providing more busing but Carlson said salaries of drivers and ordering more buses that would have to be added to Division Avenue High School as well due to district law, would be even more costly. The same would go for the creation of a walking bridge from the student parking lot to both schools, so students wouldn't have to cross over Burma Road, which has been considered a safety hazard.
At the end of the three-hour meeting, Levittown residents were visibly frustrated and restless and the board determined that a vote on the land swap would likely take place at the following week's Dec. 6 regular meeting.
However, the vote was postponed at the Dec. 6 meeting.
"We have decided to shelve the vote on this topic," Dr. Sirois said. "It is unlikely that we will even vote in January. I would expect a board vote in February which means a community vote would likely take place in April."
The school district's attorney Jonathan Heidelberger highlighted all circumstances that need to take place before any vote can occur.
"There needs to be a 21-day window for the Environmental Review Act," Heidelberger said. "Then there has to be a 45-day period where the vote is in four different publications," so the community is aware of what's going on.
As for the normal BOE meeting proceedings, MacArthur High School was on display since the Winter Wind Ensemble performed, and the walls of the hallway and board room were clad in impressive artwork from MacArthur students.
Then, the Marketing Blitz class took center-stage as four students presented a remarkable and detailed presentation on what it would take to bring a professional football team to Long Island. They named it the Long Island Tide, designed a striking logo for it and even broke it down to all financial, demographical and geographic obstacles that might be in the way of doing such a project.
At presentation's end, the students put on their Tide hats, and distributed them to each member of the board.
"This is just another example of what the nine-period day brings," Superintendent for Instruction Victor Longaro said. "Without this, students wouldn't be learning these wonderful concepts."
The board was then pleased to announce a donation from the Levittown Seaford Wantagh Athletic Association in the form of artificial turf to be installed on the infields at the Seamans Neck Road fields. LSW uses these fields for their leagues each spring and summer, but it is district property.
"We hope to use these new fields possibly for some of our softball teams," Board Trustee James Moran said. The cost of this turf is approximately $100,000.
The next board meeting will take place at 8 p.m. on Jan. 10, 2007 at Levittown Memorial Education Center. For more information visit www.levittownschools.com.