Sept. 6, the first day of classes for the Port Washington schools, culminated in a meeting of the board of education. The day, a "fabulous opening," according to Superintendent Geoffrey N. Gordon, provoked discussion on important back-to-school issues such as the Manorhaven roof, class sizes and fire safety.
The main focus of the meeting was a vote on a proposal to evaluate the condition of Manorhaven Elementary School roof. The roof discussion began with community comments by Port Washington Teachers Association President Tessa Jordan, who teaches at Manorhaven. Jordan said that the roof "is not just unattractive, but dangerous." Manorhaven PTA co-president Cindy Lyman noted the "huge concern from all parents." Following these impassioned comments, Roger Smith of the architectural firm Burton, Behrendt, Smith gave a summary of what his firm would do in analyzing the extent of the damage to the roof.
A significant consequence of the survey would be whether the roof could be considered an emergency. If it was found to be so, then money could be allocated toward repairs even under the constraining contingency budget that resulted from the controversial second defeat of the budget on June 21. At present, about one-fifth of the roughly $1 million required for a complete reconstruction has been set aside. However, if the situation was not shown to be an emergency, then the potential for fixing the roof will be severely limited.
The proposal to evaluate the roof, at a cost of about $42,000 passed 6-1, with Dean Nardone opposed. The analysis will consist of three parts: an environmental study to look for mold and asbestos, a study of the construction of the roof products and a structural analysis.
Edward Sallie, assistant superintendent for human resources and general administration, discussed enrollment issues and class sizes on the first day of school for the district. Of the 108 sections in the elementary schools, 82 percent met or were below the district's class-size guidelines. Of the 19 sections that exceeded the standards, some were found in each of the five elementary schools; most of the sections exceeded the limit by one or two students. Board member Nancy Cowles called the oversized classes a "real concern."
"There is no money," Superintendent Gordon said. "I am very concerned about music and art." The class-size information for Weber and Schreiber will be released in
the next two weeks. Prior to the first day of school, Bruce Bingham, Nassau County Fire Marshal, had completed an annual fire safety report.
"Any violations were very routine," explained Bingham, who said he was impressed with the exceptional quality of fire safety in the Port schools. "[There was] not one major violation in the school district. Taking into account the construction, it is a tribute to safety."
During the second round of community comments, Alan Baer asked about current class sizes at Schreiber. Principal Jay Lewis said that physical-education class sizes had increased to between 26 and 32 students.
Principal Lewis then concluded the meeting with one sentence that described the problems facing Schreiber: "I have two less teachers than two years ago, when there were 200 less students."