At its Nov. 17 meeting, the board of education approved the hiring of an environmental consulting firm to help them and the community assess the possibility of using the Salem Instructional Center as an elementary school. The close proximity of the facility to the Port Washington Landfill has raised potential environmental issues that would have to be adequately addressed before the school would be reopened. The school was closed in 1988 and currently houses school district offices and maintenanc shops.
The firm engaged by the board is Disposal Safety. It will subcontract part of the work to Carpenter Environmental Associates, Inc (CEA) that has worked with Disposal Safety on numerous projects and offers additional expertise in a number of areas including environment sample collection and landfill and soil cap construction.
A second subcontractor, Dr. John S. Young of the Hampshire Research Institute (HRI) has been included for a small, but important, task. Dr. Young is an expert in risk assessment and toxicology, and has worked with Disposal Safety on numerous Superfund sites, including the Port Washington Landfill. His role will be to identify any environmental health concerns specific to elementary school children.
The board noted that research time will be saved because Disposal Safety has been reviewing the site conditions and cleanup at the Port Washington Landfill for Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington.
The work will be performed in two phases. Phase one involves designing a sampling and analysis plan that would identify any environmental problems. Decisions on which environmental media and which chemicals need to be sampled will be made in full recognition that the future occupants of the building may be small children, a sub-population that Disposal Safety notes, has differing sensitivities than adults to various environmental conditions. The cost for the phase is approximately $15,000 and should take six weeks.
A later phase of the project would involve executing the plan, interpreting the results and assisting the school district in evaluating the overall situation. To aid interpretation, the board decided to compare environmental conditions found at the Salem site to conditions at a nearby school.
The second phase, which includes sampling, laboratory analysis and reporting on results, would take about seven weeks
The board also issued a public statement recently that advised that an investigation into the background of Mr. Bill Day, one of the employees of the KBD educational facilities consulting firm recently hired by the district, had a criminal record. In 1987, prior to his employement by KBD, he pled guilty in a federal court in Indiana to one count of violating the federal tax codes and one count of extortion. Mr. Day paid the fine and served the sentence imposed by the court, according to the release from the board.
The board commented that it had extensive discussion and concluded that the matter has no significant bearing on the work that KBD has been engaged to do for the district. Continuing its comments, the board said, " (We) are confident that KBD will produce the highly professional report that they promised when we entered into a contract with them, and for which KBD is widely known."
* Several parents of Daly School students addressed the board expressing, in strong terms, their frustration over what they feel is the lack of response by the district to the space needs at the Daly facility.
Referring to the fact that the two additional classrooms approved in a previous bond were never constructed, while the other schools received what was promised to them in the bond, parents said, "We've been cheated." One parent pointed out, "We worked hard to get the bond approved. Where's parity?"
One mother put a face on the issue by bringing her children to the meeting and speaking at the microphone with them flanking her."Our kids are being cheated."
* Wendy Cohen offered some information regarding decreasing enrollment projections in the New York City public school system. Quoting from an article printed in the New York Times Aug. 2, 1998 issue, she reported that after seven years of galloping growth, enrollment in the New York City public school system has suddenly begun to slow down. The article states that projections show that this year enrollment will rise by 3,000 to 4,000 students, roughly one-fifth of the average increase of 19,000 over the last seven years.
The article continues, "What accounts for the slowdown---and whether it will continue---is a mystery, though board of education officials cite two main factors: fewer babies being born as baby boomers reach the end of their child-bearing years, and more children leaving the city schools, some in favor of nearby suburbs, others to return to their home countries.
The article also states that by 2002, the numbers are expected to flatten out. Then, the school population is expected to shrink.
Nationally, public school enrollment is not expected to flatten out until 2007. And New York City school officials said they had not expected city enrollment to drop until several years into the next century either.
Barbara Werle spoke in response to the article and noted that every school district has different variables that contribute to its enrollment.