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School District Reconfiguration Options Clarified

BOE Holds Hearing on School Consolidation

The Mineola School Board of Education presented more options to the public last week at its reconfiguration meeting regarding school closings in the district. District Superintendent Michael Nagler showcased four options, plus a bond option to the public, which indicated the board has a long way to go in terms of a set option.

Nagler stated that if all else fails, option one is what the district is going with. He told the public that he’d have a full report to the board of education at its July 22 meeting.

“We need to move on this over the summer and I have a timeline on this to do that to try to bring closure to this,” Nagler said.

Option one (CCC recommendation) consists of the closing of the Hampton Street School and Cross Street School with a pre-K-2 south model at the Willis Avenue School and a mirrored model at the Meadow Drive School but with a north jurisdiction. Grades three and four would be at the Jackson Avenue School, with grades five through seven being at the middle school. Mineola High School would have an eighth through twelfth grade model.

“At this point, this is what we are doing in September 2011,” Nagler said. “It requires no money. It’s doable. It’s a configuration that compromises. It works. This is what it looks like without a bond.”

No bond would be needed for this configuration and it keeps four grades local and clusters one additional grade. However, the north/south split has been an issue to some residents and the amount of transitions in this model has bared the brunt of parent and resident outcry as well. Option one would see the fifth and eighth grade move out of its current schools.

Option two sees the same schools close but would reverse the north/south jurisdictions at Jackson and Willis Avenue. Fifth grade would be added to Jackson Avenue and the middle school would see a six through eighth grade model. The high school would be a traditional ninth through twelfth grade configuration.

This configuration keeps the middle school and high school as is and makes Jackson Avenue a three-year transition. But this option would need a bond passed and the numbers in the north/south split would still be an issue.

Option three would see three schools closing, adding Meadow Drive to Hampton and Cross Street. The Willis Avenue School would have a pre-K-1 model and Jackson Avenue would be a grade two through four institution. The middle school would hold fifth through seventh grade while the high school would use an option one configuration. Under option three, Hampton may be retained for the use as the districts central office.

This model would see a full cluster, optimizing staff and class sizes and would showcase three-year transitions for students. According to Nagler, this is the most cost-effective option in terms of savings.

“In this configuration, you’ll get the greatest savings,” he said. “Not that it should drive the decision, but there’s no greater savings than this configuration. It’ll probably pay for itself by the time it would be implemented.”

The downside to this option is that all north/south students of the dividing line (Jericho Turnpike) would be traveling, and a bond would need to be passed.

Option four sees the same schools closing as option three, with two three-year transitions at Willis Avenue and Jackson Avenue and two four-year transitions at the middle school and high school. Under this option, the eighth grade would remain at the middle school. This configuration would need two parts of a contingent bond passed if the district were to use this model.

A contingent bond is broken up into two parts and is, according to Nagler, an “if-then proposal.” One part is put out and voted on and if it passes, a vote is put out for the second part. A second part of a contingent bond cannot be voted on if the first part fails.

“I made a report to the board that I believe converting Willis [Avenue School] to fit students was a cheaper alternative than converting Hampton [Street] School,” he said. “Basically, I have not changed my position. I believe that Willis Avenue is a better facility for a pre-K-2, given the resources to convert the buildings. Approximately, to add five classrooms [to Willis Avenue] and if green spaces were wanted and other things, it would reach $250,000, while at Hampton it would be almost $1.5 million.”

Dr. Nagler stated that each option has a set of guidelines that he will abide by in coming to the determination of which configuration will be used. For every option, there will be a full description of curriculum at each level, with sample student schedules to be analyzed and taken into consideration. There will be additions and subtractions to the curriculum to fit whatever option is chosen and once the programs are set, staffing configurations will come into play.

Bus routes will be included as well as revenue projections for each option and transition plans for the students. Dr. Nagler revealed last week that the district has received a “ written offer” on one of the buildings and that the district could factor that in one of the options where that building is open.

Nagler iterated that he would meet with a district administrative team on July 7 to determine said guidelines. In terms of a contingent bond for option four, Nagler said both parts have to pass in order for it to be implemented.

Dr. Nagler indicated that the board must decide between two different bond proposals if a bond is needed. For options one and two, the first proposition will provide funding for an eight-classroom extension on the Jackson Avenue School. If that passes, then a second proposition will provide the funding for a four-classroom extension onto the Hampton Street School.

If proposition one passes, grade five will remain in the elementary school and grade eight will remain in the middle school. If both propositions pass, Nagler said the board might decide to make Hampton a pre-K-2 school instead of the Willis Avenue School. However, if the bond fails, under all bond proposals for the four options, the district will reconfigure under option one.

“All roads lead back to option one,” he said. “That’s why I said if everything fails and nothing works, come September 2011, we’re moving ahead with option one.”

Under bond proposals for options three and four, the same extension to Jackson Avenue would be included, but extensions would be made on Willis Avenue rather than Hampton Street of 14 additional classrooms on the second floor as well as a rooftop playground. If the first proposition is approved, three buildings will close and option three will be implemented.

If both propositions are approved, the board might decide to opt to a fifth through eighth grade model in the middle school. Nagler concluded that the board would make a decision on July 22 in terms of which bond to pursue.