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What If Hampton Were Willis?

How Would Hampton Serve In Place of Willis in Option Three?

In an effort to explain why the Willis Avenue School fits better under reconfiguration option three as opposed to other schools, Mineola Superintendent Michael Nagler offered a comparison at last weeks board meeting. Nagler used architectural renderings to showcase how the Hampton Street School would look if it were to get the “treatment” Willis Avenue would get under the bond that is up for vote on Oct. 26.

Many residents have been outspoken as to why Willis Avenue is not fit to house more children and that Hampton would serve a better purpose. Nagler replicated the pre-K-1 model on Hampton last week in the cluster model of option three.

“Since it’s the 800 pound gorilla in the room as to why people don’t like [Willis under option three], I’d like to clarify a few things,” Nagler said. “Not my words, but people say it has no green space, in a lousy part of town, etc. So I thought I’d try to present if we replicated what Willis offers, somewhere else.”

According to Nagler, he chose the Hampton Street School because people reference it as the largest piece of land the district occupies. The presentation showed the possible elimination of arched trees in the front of Hampton to make room for the necessary bus loop, additional parking and moving the playground farther back.

A bigger cafeteria would be needed as well as a two-story extension where the playground currently sits. According to Nagler and state education department recommendations, to replicate what would be at Willis Avenue on Hampton Street would cost $8,809,600; roughly $6.5 million more than the current proposal on the Willis Avenue School.

“We’ve gone through these exercises with architects,” Nagler stated. “We’ve drawn pictures. We’ve added extensions on all the schools to see what fits best. We came up with cost scenarios for all schools and every time we came up with a cost scenario, it was a lot of money.”

Willis Avenue has 50 parking spots as well as air conditioning and bathrooms in every room. Classrooms in Willis are 1,000 square feet and the school already has a bus loop. According to Nagler, Hampton would need 16 additional classrooms in the two-story add-on and 5,000 square feet of playground, which would impede on the back fields that Hampton is so well known for.

“We use those fields,” Nagler said. “We really don’t want to encroach on those fields because we use them for our sports.”

Nagler said Willis is the most cost effective option to handle the 14 additional classrooms it would get if the bond were passed in October. Furthermore, the school is built to current state education department standards.

“Why Willis you say?” he said. “I get that people have this dislike for Willis because it set upon this motion in this district that once this was built, it pulled children out of the other schools there by making those buildings smaller and Willis bigger.

“At the time, we wanted a full-day kindergarten program and that’s what this building delivered. And you wanted administration out of the middle school and that’s what this building delivered.”

In terms of as a possible rental use of Willis if it were to be used as Hampton Street, Nagler said generating revenue would be difficult. “The only people we can rent Willis to is a not-for-profit, 501-(c) (3) eligible entity,” he said. “If it’s a private organization or nursery school, can’t do it.”

Concerning the rooftop playground at Willis Avenue, Dr. Nagler said it would be used for, “kids during lunchtime to run around. I have absolutely no qualms with either of my children playing on the rooftop playground.”

Dr. Nagler pointed out that with the work on Willis, it maintains the current playgrounds on Willis and all other schools. Any rental would not get the playgrounds. If Hampton were to get construction, it would impede on the green space and playground.

“A size addition would change any building,” he said. “However, work on [Willis] doesn’t change the surrounding grounds. The thing you love about all the other buildings where your children play, they all stay. Any rental we would have, we say that we get the playgrounds. We’re not going to give up the fields, we’re not going to give up the playgrounds.”