Parents challenge possible school changes

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“Children in classes smaller than 20 [students] are the children that perform the best academically,” said parent Anne Conway. “And that academic success follows with them throughout their entire academic career. And economically disadvantaged students benefit the most from small class sizes.”

Some parents were also concerned that having kids attend more than one elementary school would be a difficult adjustment, saying that students need stability to succeed, especially after Sandy.

“Is my kid going to have to move again next year after moving three times last year?” asked parent Sherri Fackler.

But one person spoke in favor of the early learning center, saying that she liked that Pre-K students could stay in the same school as their new classmates until third grade, rather than having to change schools after that first year, as the majority of students do now.

Resident John Gilmore said that East School’s closure would impact a neighborhood still reeling from Sandy, where the Long Beach Medical Center remains closed and many businesses and homeowners are struggling.

“That neighborhood is in a precarious position,” Gilmore said. “If you decide to close East School, I could see that neighborhood going into a downward spiral.”

Others felt that closing a school would only perpetuate the decreasing enrollment trend, by making Long Beach undesirable to potential new residents and decreasing real estate values.

Trustee Roy Lester disagreed. “Closing a school doesn’t decimate a neighborhood,” Lester said. “The value in Point Lookout is above Long Beach, they don’t have a school there. A school doesn’t make a neighborhood, the people do.”

A group of East School parents countered with their own presentation. Parent Angelo Lomonte said many East School parents had questions that they felt had gone unanswered, and asked why the district would consider closing East School, which had sustained the least damage from the storm, and why other district buildings like the NIKE alternative school were not considered.

“We’re not going to be silent, we’re not going to roll over”’ Lomonte said. “We’re going to make sure … they release all of the information and facts.”

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