Open a particular door at the Mineola Middle School and behold a wonderful renovation and refurbishment project that has provided the school with yet another much needed classroom. However, the cost might seem a bit drastic, when one realizes that the brand new classroom was originally a bathroom.
An ingenious renovation did in fact turn the bathroom and four others like it come January, into either a small classroom, resource room or office, but, Dr. Fern Moskowitz, principal of the Mineola Middle School, feels that this is far from a solution to the serious overcrowding issues at the middle school.
She believes the solution lies in supporting the recent bond proposal offered by the Mineola Board of Education at a Nov. 30 public meeting. The proposal stated that a bond issue total of approximately $38,500,000 will solve many of the current problems facing the middle school, the high school and all four of the elementary schools in the Mineola School District.
This bond proposal, should it pass (the referendum is tentatively scheduled for March 15) would result in an increase in school taxes of approximately $15 per month or an average of $185 a year for the average taxpayer.
(Editor's note: The correct numbers for the original proposal are $15 a month and an average of $185 a year, not "$185 a month per year" as was stated in the third paragraph of the article entitled "School District Proposes $38.5 Million Bond" appearing in last week's Mineola American . We apologize for any confusion this may have caused.)
After a curriculum and facilities audit of the schools performed by the district administrators and agencies such as CELT and Turner Construction Management, the Mineola Board of Education proposed plans for the middle school which would put $6,665,043 toward additions and alterations, $1,800,900 toward renovations and $2,791,400 towards technology for a total of $11,257,343 in improvements.
"I think everybody is hoping the bond issue passes," said Moskowitz because the 70-year-old school with its current 100 staff members and about 650 students has no more room.
"We have recaptured every and any space that is available," said Moskowitz while touring the school. To illustrate her point she showed a single classroom that houses the nurse's office, the social worker's office and the language office.
She also showed the stage of the auditorium that doubles as a music classroom, a classroom equipped with a microwave and a sink that acts as the staff room, the "detention room" which in actuality is a hall outside the elevator and a hallway that doubles as an office.
"Where are you supposed to be friendly, welcoming and collaborative?" asked Moskowitz when showing the inadequacies of the counselor's offices right outside her own office which is often grabbed up by fellow teachers and administrators desperate for a place to meet.
The problems of overcrowding, according to Moskowitz, came with the changing times.
For instance when teacher's aid and Middle School PTA member Vivian Rose wants to teach her class with computers, a new and important tool in education, she must rearrange the furniture to fit both the computers and the students.
What Moskowitz finds to be one of the biggest problems is the "infamous" cafeteria which is actually two classrooms. There is only room for one line to the food which at times results in a student having 10 minutes to finish their meal sitting under one of the many "sound baffles" that hang from the ceiling in an attempt to soften the sound of 200 young people eating and socializing.
With the proper number of entrances and exits, safety is not the issue attached to the overcrowding, according to Moskowitz, the issue is a healthy learning environment.
In order to create that environment, Moskowitz has worked with the different architects and devised a new plan that would begin with an addition to the existing building at the northeastern corner.
"We laid it out so we know exactly what has to be there to make teaming work and meet special ed needs," said Moskowitz.
The third floor of the addition would be utilized for the seventh and eighth grade team teaching of science, social studies, language arts and math).
The second floor would be used for updated technology and the first floor would be used for the band and music classes.
Beneath the addition would be one large dining facility, thus putting an end to the current overcrowded and separate eating areas.
To Vivian Rose, a problem even greater than that of the cafeteria, is the administrative offices taking up room on the first floor of the building. In the proposed plan, the problem would be solved when the administrative offices are moved to the math annex, a part of the building that Rose feels is currently inconvenient for the students. The main offices of the middle school would then be dropped from its current second floor location to the first floor.
This coincides with a suggestion of the Nassau County Police Department who surveyed the Mineola School District buildings in regard to safety. They suggested that the main offices of all the buildings in the district be located closer to the main entrance.
The completion of the plan would result in 18 new instructional areas and the creation of a library/media center that would house the television studio.
"I would like to see the bond go through, maybe not at that amount of money, but the building needs improvement," said Rose, "This is the gem of the district and I think the building should reflect it."
To those who might be considering voting "no" on the upcoming referendum due to the amount of money, Moskowitz suggested that though financial aid from the state had already been factored into the number presented to the community, for the taxpayers that are senior citizens and veterans there is additional tax relief available.
For younger taxpayers, Moskowitz suggested that improved schools make for better real estate values.
As for her reasons in supporting the bond, the answer is much simpler, "I just know the kids need it."