Lawrence School District, HALB finalize contract

Referendum to sell Number Six School set for March 31

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The Lawrence School District and the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach (HALB) have finalized contract negotiations concerning the sale of the Number Six School in Woodmere.
Pending a public referendum that is scheduled for March 31, HALB will purchase the 6.67-ace site on Church Avenue that includes a 80,170-square-foot school building for $8.5 million in cash and another $2.7 million that will be held by the district as a guarantee that Lawrence will realize more than $565,000 in annual savings on what the district now spends on transportation and special education for HALB students.
HALB plans to shift 800 elementary school students from Long Beach to the Number Six School after it receives approval from the Town of Hempstead to renovate the building and the work is complete. HALB Board President Lance Hirt said should the referendum be approved he anticipates opening the new school in two years.
“This purchase agreement is a win-win for the Woodmere-Five Towns community and for our students,” Hirt said. More than 90 percent of HALB’s incoming students live in the Woodmere area. In addition, HALB also runs Davis Renov Stahler High School for Boys in Woodmere, Stella K. Abraham High School for Girls in Hewlett and an early childhood center, also in Hewlett.
Hirt said renovations to the building are needed to make better use of the classroom space and public areas, install a new roof and windows to improve energy efficiency, put in a state-of-the-art heating and air conditioning system, along with new electrical and plumbing systems that comply with current building codes.
Before that can be done, HALB has to deal with community members who last year led a campaign that overwhelmingly defeated a referendum to sell the property to Bronx-based Simone Development Companies. Simone was planning to lease the site to Mt. Sinai Hospital for a specialty medical center.
Residents formed the Community Coalition of the Five Towns to oppose the proposed sale. They wanted the recreational areas on the site that includes ball fields, basketball courts and a playground preserved. Mt. Sinai’s proposed plan was only retaining the playground, while calling for 450 parking spaces, which community members believed would have added traffic to an already congested area.
Joshua Schein, who heads the Community Coalition, said the purchase by HALB could be good for the community if it includes preservation of the recreational space and residents are allowed to use it when school is not in session. “It is important that whatever is [on the site] benefits the community as a whole, and especially the children of the community,” Schein said.
Steven Zuller, a Woodmere resident and HALB board vice president, said that his school is sensitive to the concerns and interests of the neighboring community and that the board and executive staff are committed to ensuring that HALB is a reliable partner and good neighbor.
“We will work hard to balance the community’s wishes with our students’ needs and with the Town of Hempstead’s zoning requirements to preserve outdoor recreation areas at the Number Six School,” Zuller said. “Our goal is to create a mutually-acceptable plan for community use of school fields and playgrounds when not in school use.”
Lawrence district officials said that informational meetings at which residents can ask questions and air their concerns will be held prior to the March 31 vote.