Editorial: A first time for everything; support the SWR bond

01/09/2015 8:00 AM |

Some schools in the Shoreham-Wading River School District, namely the elementary schools, date back nearly 50 years. The district’s high school was built in 1975. Since then, the district has remained one of the few on Long Island that has not borrowed any money to improve and modernize its facilities.

While previous school boards have made noble efforts to keep costs down for taxpayers, the time has come for the district to upgrade its facilities through a bond measure.

School Superintendent Steven Cohen estimates that somewhere in the neighborhood of 30 to 50 roof leaks plague district facilities. Last year, an emergency roof repair was required. In addition to new roofs, replacement of outdated windows and electrical systems, more efficient HVAC units and enhanced handicapped accessibility will bring the district’s infrastructure into the 21st century.

But the work bond funding would pay for will update the buildings in other ways. More classrooms, updated media wings and a new kitchen at the middle school will provide amenities students in other districts already enjoy — or, in the case of Riverhead, will have soon, thanks to a $78 million construction bond passed in 2011.

In the ever-competitive atmosphere of secondary education — and in the era of a tax cap that incentivizes limiting how much districts can raise their budgets — it seems rather short-sighted and unfair to students to continue patching up old buildings year after year, when a complete overhaul of the district’s buildings is inevitable. Buildings do have life spans. Material and labor costs will mean savings in the future, and with bond rates staying low, interest expenses will be limited by acting sooner rather than later.

Critics of the proposals are sure to point out the timing of the vote, with annual district voting now just five months away. Rushing to vote on a construction bond in the middle of winter, after years of neglecting the district’s infrastructure, might not be a necessary expense for the district. However, opponents have had plenty of opportunity to speak up — and we’ve yet to hear much criticism.

The time is now to improve Shoreham-Wading River’s schools.