No. 3 Story of the Year: Residents vote down school expansion projects, Scricca retires

BARBARELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Former Superintendent Diane Scricca

Riverhead School District officials were hoping to convince voters that now was the perfect time to launch a massive $123 million school expansion project.

The economy was down, which meant that interest rates would be lower and contractors hungry for work meant labor would come cheaply.

School officials also hoped to convince residents a major school expansion and renovation project was not only needed, but required. The district’s old buildings had fallen out of compliance with state law concerning safety and people with disabilities. They said maintenance and upkeep of district buildings had frequently been the thing that got cut from prior budgets. And they said that while recent enrollment hadn’t grown much, the buildings still couldn’t handle the enrollment growth from a decade ago.

In February 2010, they finally pulled the trigger and put the massive school expansion and renovation project they’d been planning for so long before residents for a vote.

The $123 million proposal called for additions to all of district buildings, except Roanoke Avenue, which would become an administrative office. It also called for renovations that officials said had been put off for years, for a new high school football field on artificial turf and new baseball and soccer fields.

The verdict? Not even close. Residents overwhelming shot down the bond issue, with only 38 percent of the 5,933 voters in favor.

Many residents said they understood the need for some of the work, but that the price tag was just too high, especially in a slow economy where people didn’t have as much money.

School superintendent Diane Scricca, who had advocated for the expansion, announced just months later that she would retire at the end of the school year. She pointed to the bond’s defeat as part of the reason why she was leaving.

District officials have since formed another committee to again consider school space needs.

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