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Public warms up to idea that Briarcliff school could be sold

04/17/2018 12:05 PM |

Shoreham-Wading River School District residents have accepted that the fate of the Briarcliff campus may include its sale. 

In an effort to continue public participation in the decision about the property, the Board of Education held a roundtable discussion last Tuesday at which concerned community members could speak directly with a board member or district administrator.

Briarcliff was closed in 2014 as part of the district’s restructuring and has been empty since. The district has not decided what to do with the property, which costs approximately $95,000 a year to maintain. During multiple public hearings the school board has held on the matter, many community members have been eager to keep it, while others have said selling might be the best option.

During last week’s event, tables were set up in the high school library, each with at least one board or staff member to take notes and facilitate discussion. By the end of the hour-long session, facilitators from each table presented the main takeaways.

Most residents came to terms with the fact that the property should be sold.

“The only viable option is to sell the property,” Lisa Geraghty said at her table with board member Erin Hunt.

“It would be great if we could use it as educational or science center,” Kevin Ward suggested.

Ms. Hunt pointed out that other districts with buildings ready for use are having trouble renting or leasing them.

An appraisal of the property was conducted last spring, but the value was not disclosed to protect future negotiations. Glen Arcuri, assistant superintendent for finance and operations, said there is no property comparable to a 10.54-acre lot in the Village of Shoreham, so the value of the land is hard to determine.

“I don’t think it’s about dollars. It’s a question about what does the community think,” Mr. Arcuri said.

This generated comment from some who said the district should know how much the land is worth before making a decision.

Several conversations focused on marketing the property effectively and aggressively to make sure it doesn’t sit on the market too long. Superintendent Gerard Poole reported that his group suggested holding an auction for the property, to which board president Ron Rose responded positively.

Some also pointed out that the because district spends about $100,000 annually to keep the property up, every year wasted takes money from its profit.

Mr. Poole said his group wanted the area to keep its residential flavor, noting that educational uses could bring school buses and traffic.

Another suggestion was that the board conduct a survey of district residents once several options are selected.

In previous hearings, community members asked that North Shore Public Library be moved into the Briarcliff building, but the library has expressed no interest in moving. Others said they wanted to see a pre-kindergarten program at the shuttered building, but the board advised that would be too costly.

No action was taken at last week’s Board of Education meeting. Mr. Rose said that, in order to hear everyone’s concerns and ideas, there would most likely be another public hearing before the board makes a final decision.

Caption: Students and parents outside Briarcliff Elementary School in Shoreham in 2014. (Credit: Cyndi Murray, file)

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