Riverhead school bond vote not likely until fall

Taxpayers were expected to vote for a second time on whether to finance a large improvement project for Riverhead school buildings this March.

But now district officials say uncertainty over what should be included in the bond has stalled the process and the vote won’t go before the public at least until fall.

The Riverhead School District’s Community Partnership for Revitalization Committee — a group of taxpayers, teachers and administrators dedicated to devising a community-supported plan for district-wide buildings and grounds improvements — met yesterday at Aquebogue Elementary School.

However, committee members say they are far from reaching a consensus on what improvements are needed at the district’s four elementary schools, middle school, junior high and high school.

The group was originally expected to present its findings at the Jan. 11 school board meeting, according to the district’s website, and the committee was expected to adopt a proposed plan at its final meeting Jan. 25.
But superintendent Nancy Carney said the group has not adhered to that schedule and needs additional time before it can present its suggestions to the board.

“We want to wait until [we’re] presenting something to the community that we can all support,” Ms. Carney said Monday.

Voters overwhelmingly rejected a $123 million expansion plan last February. That 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. The bill would have been paid with taxpayer money over 23 years.

Committee members have said the next plan must include only necessities, rather than optional additions and improvements, in order to gain community approval.

School board president Ann Cotten-Degrasse, who is also a committee member, said the group will soon agree on a plan for what is needed at the junior high and high school and then discuss the other buildings. She said the committee, which consists of about 50 members, has been meeting at and taking tours of the different schools, which has helped members see what is needed at each building.

“The general impression was the [high school] was immaculate,” she said. “But when we actually did the tour of the high school, [people were] appalled.”

Ms. Carney said the group has already agreed on including some improvements in the next bond such as replacing single pane windows in the middle and high schools, as well as repairing leaking roofs at some of the buildings. Ms. Cotten-Degrasse has said the Roanoke Avenue school will “absolutely not” be turned into an administrative building under the next proposal.

District officials have urged community members to attend meetings and voice their opinions. The committee has met about twice a month since October.
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