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‘A.C.’ A Hot Topic At Jericho School Board Meeting

It was fitting that the most heated discussion of the evening at the Tuesday, Aug. 9 Jericho Union Free School District Board meeting concerned air conditioning. The topic took up almost all of the otherwise brief final gathering before the district prepares for students to once again populate the halls.

Thanks to a successful vote, air conditioning will be installed in the auditorium and cafeteria of Cantiague, Seaman and Jackson Elementary schools. The resolution, however, did not come without a heavy amount of debate. Board member Barbara Krieger suggested that the district may have more pressing financial needs, making a large expenditure like air conditioning an unwise venture. 

“We have to find a million dollars over the next year or two, in terms of keeping under the tax cap,” Krieger said. “Maybe, at a time when you’re looking to find a million dollars, you don’t spend half a million on air conditioning. You just sweat for another couple of days.”

Kreiger’s major concern was not the installation of cafeteria units, but rather the purchase of an auditorium unit, that can go for large periods of time without being used.

Board member Claire Hochheiser offered a reason why air conditioning may be a wise investment.

“Many children have so many medical issues that they do need access to air conditioning,” she said. “…Sometimes if a child is having a difficult day, they (schools) might have a cafeteria or auditorium where those children can go, still be educated and have access to air conditioning. We don’t have a lot of access to air conditioning.”

Vice president William Ferro agreed with Hochheiser. “We’re not talking about a substantial amount of money,” he said. “We are talking about kids. Anybody who’s been in any of those cafeterias, any of the auditoriums in the elementary school, sat through graduation, I mean, it’s horrific. To think that the kids are sitting in there when it’s 105 degrees or 90 degrees!...In an effort to be consistent among the elementary schools, I would think that if we are going to approve it on one, we should just approve it on all of them.”

Cohesion between all three elementary schools is a major reason why Jericho Superintendent Henry L. Grishman brought the issue to the board. “We had not approached all three elementary schools consistently when this work began,” Grishman said. “This is the recommendation that makes the most sense to us, based upon funding, availability, Jackson Roof Funds, and consistency.”        

Funds for the Jackson air conditioning system will be coming out of the previously approved “Jackson Roof Project.” The work at Cantiague is 90 percent completed and should be operational by early September, according to the board. This work is the nearest to completion of the three schools.

As far as why a large portion of these projects were completed without formal board approval, board president Joseph H. Lorintz said the group is “turning over a new leaf.”

“The board has requested to be kept informed as to any additional air conditioning work that the district is going to be doing,” Lorintz said.  

In the past, the board has occasionally been asked to approve projects after completion. “Because of the times we live in now, the board has asked for much greater reporting to us prior to our spending money,” Ferro told the few attending residents. “These particular issues are kind of unique because they are almost substantially completed in all respects.”

Other business at the meeting included approving the current agreement with the SCOPE After School program and the amount of the 2011-2012 school budget raised by property taxes. Of the $111,962,251 listed in the school budget, $101,337,751 will be raised through property taxes.   

The next school board meeting will be held on Sept. 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the Jericho Middle School Library.