School supe: Enrollment has grown, space is tight

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Phillips Avenue Elementary School in Riverside.

Enrollment in the Riverhead School District has swelled by 200 students since last June  — about half of which comes from the Flanders area — and classroom space is tight this year, superintendent Nancy Carney said at Tuesday night’s school board meeting.

Phillips Avenue Elementary school enrollment has soared by 100 students in the past three months and enrollment at Roanoke Avenue Elementary School has grown by about 30 students in that time, she said.

Ms. Carney noted that the bulk of those students are children living in rental housing.

She also noted that the number of students attending Riley Avenue Elementary School is at all-time high. The only school in the district, including the middle and high school, where enrollment went down was Aquebogue Elementary School, which lost between 15 and 20 students.

“This is not an ideal situation,” Ms. Carney said at the meeting. “But it is what we’re facing.”

Riverhead resident Sarah Bowe, who has three children in the district, took the podium to say that the first grade at Roanoke Avenue has three classes, two with 26 students and one with 27 students. She noted those classrooms cannot legally accommodate more than 27 students.

“We’re right up against that point,” she said.

Ms. Carney told the audience that the district would find ways to accommodate those students if that situation occurred, perhaps by moving students to different elementary schools.

“We’re hopeful that enrollment remains steady,” the superintendent said.

The district lost several positions last year due to budget cutbacks and officials have said for years the buildings cannot properly handle current enrollment. Taxpayers will vote on whether or not to approve a $78.5 million bond for infrastructures expansions and upgrades Oct. 11.

In other news, although school started just one week ago, the school board has already set a timeline by which to hammer out a district budget for the 2012-13 school year. Ms. Carney will first meet with administrators Monday, Oct. 17 to discuss the budget outlook, according to the schedule. The preliminary budget will be presented to taxpayers March 27. The statewide vote for school budgets is set for May 15, 2012.

This will be the first budget the district creates while trying to work within the confines of the two percent tax increase cap, which was approved by the state earlier this year.
The board also voted to approve year-end adjustments to the 2010-11 school year budget, which leaves the district with a $22 million fund balance, $3.5 million of which will be used to reduce taxes in 2011-12.

The school board also voted 5-0 in favor of the terms of a settlement reached with a non-instructional employee. Board president Ann Cotten Degrasse and member Tim Griffing were absent. The board did not elaborate on the settlement

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