About 50 community members, teachers, school administrators and elected officials came out to Riverhead High School Thursday evening to discuss what needs to be done to win voter approval for a bond to repair and upgrade the district’s antiquated and overcrowded school buildings.
The district agreed to form the committee after residents overwhelming voted down a bond issue to pay for a $123 million expansion project in February, said Superintendent Nancy Carney said. The bill would have been paid for with taxpayer money over 23 years. The committee will meet twice a month until the revised proposal is adopted Jan. 25, according to a schedule distributed during the meeting.
Residents will vote on the new proposal in March.
Administrators have said the need for additional space is to handle a spike in enrollment that occurred 10 years ago and was never addressed. Even recently, district enrollment has grown from 4,808 students in the 2008-09 year to 4,927 students this year, according to data distributed at the meeting
“We are at a point where we have very serious needs we need to address,” Ms. Carney said at the meeting’s start.
Sal Mastropaolo of Calverton, who attended Thursday’s meeting and who voted no on the proposal in February, said he would like to see separate line items for different repairs and upgrades on the next vote.
“I wasn’t convinced that everything they were proposing was needed,” he said.
He also said he would be interested in redistricting the school’s elementary schools, a move he admitted would not be very popular. He entered the meeting with an open mind and hopes the community’s suggestions will be incorporated in the next proposal, he said.
“Overall, the voter next time is going to be more informed,” Mr. Mastropaolo said.
Pamela Hogref of Riverhead said she voted in favor of the original proposal, but reluctantly because so many families are struggling in the down economy.
“The taxpayer needs a break,” she said. “The school has to work to cut our budget.”
The original proposal called for 53 additional classrooms and included major renovations in every building, as well as new ballfields at the district’s main campus north of Pulaski Street. Also, the Roanoke Avenue school would have been converted into administrative offices.