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Riverhead School Board approves $1.67 million for district renovations

The Riverhead Board of Education unanimously approved using $1.67 million through the district’s repair reserve fund for 20 renovation projects throughout the district.

The reserve, the district’s savings account, is funded by unused funds at the end of each year. As of Nov. 19, there was $2.4 million remaining in the reserve. In May 2017, the district was authorized by voters to create the $7.5 million repair reserve. The $7.5 million figure represents the maximum amount that can be put in the reserve fund.

Deputy Superintendent Sam Schneider said the repairs includes any district property which has “decayed, deteriorated, weathered or broken.” 

Some repairs in the high school include replacing gym wall pads, locker room exhaust fans, interior doors and the outdoor fences. In the middle school, funds will be used for replacing gym pads, the exterior wall sign at the front of the building, the emergency lighting and power system and interior doors.

Other projects will include replacing sidewalks, classroom windows, flooring, ceiling tiles, drainage equipment, stairwells, portable classroom windows, playground equipment and hardware at the Aquebogue, Phillips Avenue, and Pulaski Street elementary schools.

Security cameras throughout the district would be replaced, Mr. Schneider said.

A major renovation, Mr. Schneider said, is replacing the emergency power system at Riverhead Middle School. The current system was built in the 1960s, he said. 

“The power in the middle school is essential,” he said. “The middle school is where the district servers sit. If the power in the middle school goes down, the district has no online, no email capability.” 

Greg Fischer, who lost a bid to join the school board in the most recent election, suggested the district switch to a battery-operated power system, which he said is more “reliable than generator systems.” 

“If you’re talking about emergency mechanical systems, they require a lot of maintenance and testing,” he said. “Batteries are a lot less maintenance and might represent a lower cost to the district.”

Mr. Schneider said the board would consider the idea, but it would need to be further researched. 

Part of the funds would go toward repairing windows in the portable classroom at Phillips Avenue. Mr. Fischer asked if the portable classrooms are necessary if the student population decreases.

Superintendent Aurelia Henriquez said the need for portable classrooms is an issue separate from the repairs. She said the board has been discussing long-term plans. 

“When we’re ready, we will share that publicly,” Dr. Henriquez said. “We’re discussing those plans and approving a study by BOCES that will address numbers for us and better predict classroom sizes. That’s very different from what we’re talking about.” 

In his presentation, Mr. Schneider said the fence near the high school, which runs parallel to Route 58, has been repeatedly cut and vandalized. Sal Mastropaolo of Calverton raised concerns with the $130,000 replacement.

“I’d like to think that students are using that as a walkway to go to the shopping centers, so why don’t we leave an opening so they won’t cut their way through in the future?” he asked. 

Mr. Schneider said the administration and the district’s Health and Safety Committee are concerned with student safety in the area. 

“Once students cross the fence, we no longer have our guards there to protect them,” he said.

But Susan Tocci of Flanders said there are no guards in the area regardless of the fence repairs. She said she believes the damage and vandalism will happen again. 

“This $130,000 to replace this broken fence is only going to happen again,” she said. 

Board member Laurie Downs said the board is also concerned about the homeless community that live beyond the fence. For that reason, she said, the replacement fence would be 8 feet tall and made of metal so it cannot be cut.

The board is required to hold a public hearing on the projects to educate themselves and the public on intended repairs, Mr. Schneider said. In 2017, the Board approved using $926,000 from the repair reserve fund for 14 projects.

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Photo caption: Deputy Superintendent Sam Schneider outlined the plan at Tuesday’s meeting. (Kate Nalepinski photo)