Elementary school boundaries up for discussion Tuesday

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05/09/2014 11:00 AM |
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO

After a group of parents took issue recently with the district’s elementary school assignment boundaries, the Riverhead Board of Education will discuss at next Tuesday’s meeting exactly how the current school lines came to be.

The issue sparked at a March 12 meeting when residents questioned why students living in Calverton Hills are required to enroll at Phillips Avenue School in Riverside when Riley Avenue Elementary School in Calverton is closer to them.

Riley Avenue is just three miles from Calverton Hills, while Phillips Avenue is 5.5 miles away.

South Jamesport resident and former school board president Angela DeVito had requested at the April 22 meeting that the school board add the discussion item to the next agenda so the district could explain why some elementary students do not attend the schools closest to their homes.

Ms. DeVito has questioned whether the current boundaries are forcing more minority students into certain schools and believes the district could be in danger of losing federal aid known as Title I, a program designed to improve academic achievement among disadvantaged students.

“We might stand to have those funds jeopardized because we do have elementary schools that appear to be segregated,” she said during the March 25 school board meeting. “I’m saying that it appears; I’m not saying that it is.”

Superintendent Nancy Carney said during a recent interview that, according to school board meeting minutes, the decision to shift Calverton Hills students from Riley Avenue to Phillips Avenue was made Oct. 11, 1977, due to overcrowding at Riley. The shift took effect the following school year, she said.

After the March 12 meeting, Ms. Carney said she would be open to considering redrawing district boundaries if that’s the will of the Board of Education.

The Calverton Hills community was built in 1972 for the families of Grumman employees, she added, and those children initially attended school at Riley.

According to a previous News-Review report, many streets on the Brookhaven Town side of Calverton hamlet — South River Road, Nugent Drive, Pinehurst Boulevard and others — were reassigned from Riley to Phillips beginning in the 2002-03 school year, which is the last time Riverhead redistricted its elementary schools.

The district’s goal for that shift was to alleviate overcrowding following expansions of the Aquebogue, Riley Avenue and Phillips Avenue schools. At that time, the district also moved many students living west of Roanoke Avenue — including areas like the Roanoke Avenue apartments — to Riley Avenue to minimize concern that previous boundaries sent most minority children to either Phillips or Roanoke avenue schools.