Reviewing relocation and Number Six plan

District facing $4.2 million budget deficit


The relocation plan that has Lawrence High School students at the middle school and about half of the middle school students at two elementary schools because the high school is closed, along with the proposed sale of the Number Six School were discussed at the district’s town hall meeting on Feb. 14.

A chorus classroom — Room 334 — in Lawrence Middle School created an intimate setting for the get together attended by nearly a dozen parents, two Board of Education trustees and several district administrators.

Since Jan. 16, the high school has been closed due to the possibility of its electrical system becoming inoperable. The wiring was corroding due to contact with salt water in Hurricane Sandy.

In an attempt to quell a persistent community rumor, Superintendent Gary Schall said that the air quality at the high school wasn’t the reason the building was closed. It was the electrical system. Reopening the high school is a primary priority, he said, adding that Facilities Director Chris Milano is monitoring the progress daily.

“We are going back to the high school on time,” said Schall, who previously said the expected date of return is March 18. “The equipment is coming March 1 and all systems are a go.”

To date the work done at the high school has cost $2.4 million and is expected to total approximately $8 million, Schall said. By taking down some walls in offices and creating 10 classrooms at the middle school, Schall said the district saved $100,000 compared to renting portable classrooms. Trailers have been rented and are being used as meeting and office spaces at the middle school. The district has also hired a public adjustor to help handle all the Federal Emergency Management Agency claims.

There have been some problems at the middle school from overcrowding in the hallways and in the cafeteria at lunch to a lack of communication from administration to the students. “The middle school kids are being shell shocked,” said Blasia Baum, the Central PTA president. “I’m all for discipline, but the kids need to know the rules, parents need to know the rules.”

New middle school Principal Willis Perry said he agreed with Baum. “My plan is to get out to all the schools and express my expectations to the [middle school] students,” Perry said.

Definitely one rule that was enforced is no lighting fires. A high school student was caught igniting a fire in a middle school bathroom on Feb. 7. “The young man was arrested,” said Assistant Superintendent for Student and Community Affairs Pat Pizzarelli. “He was suspended for the rest of the year.”

To help ensure that the students receive the instruction they need, ELA and math preparation after school for the state tests began last week and additional prep sessions will be held on Saturdays.

However, an ominous warning was signaled by Schall concerning the budget for next school year. “The cost of Sandy that is facing us as we approach budget time is huge,” he said. “No matter how we slice it, the options won’t be pleasant.” At a district board meeting on Feb. 11, Schall reported a revised budget deficit of $4.2 million.

A public referendum on the proposed sale of the Number Six School at 523 Church Ave. in Woodmere is scheduled for March 20. At the town hall meeting, Benjamin Weinstock, the attorney representing Bronx-based Simone Development Companies, spoke. Simone is planning to buy the 6.7-acre site for $12.5 million and transform it into a multi-specialty medical practice and an urgent care center run by Mt. Sinai Hospital.

In addition to the 60 doctors, mostly from Mt. Sinai, there will be up to 150 other employees that could be hired from the local community, Weinstock said. The recreational area and ball fields will be use for parking, but the playground will remain. It will be moved to an area closer to Church Avenue and Ibsen Street. “The project will take about two years and cost more than $20 million,” he said.

The district has scheduled a town hall meeting about the proposed sale with representatives from Simone and Mt. Sinai at the middle school on Feb. 27 at 7 p.m.