For years, the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District Board of Education set aside money in its annual budget to maintain its facilities. Residents then had to authorize the spending in the budget vote in May.
That is, the board took a pay-as-you-go approach to repairing its schools and administrative offices. The last time the district bonded to pay for a project was the mid-1960s, when it built Kennedy High School. That bond was paid off in 1993.
This fiscally responsible approach has been good for local taxpayers, who have not had to incur the interest charges associated with a capital bond. The trouble is, the district has been slow to make needed repairs, and a number of facilities have suffered from years, decades even, of benign neglect.
Bellmore-Merrick schools are clean and safe, but they are old and aging fast. The Central District Board of Education and the new superintendent, John DeTommaso, have proposed a $49.89 million bond to cover the cost of all of the desperately needed repairs to restore the Central District’s facilities to their former glory and bring them into the 21st century. We support the proposal, on which residents will vote on Dec. 2.
DeTommaso recently offered the Herald Life a tour of the district’s five schools –– Calhoun, Kennedy and Mepham high schools and Grand Avenue and Merrick Avenue middle schools –– and we were shocked at the condition of some of the facilities, namely Mepham’s basement art room and football locker room, as well as science laboratories and bathrooms throughout the district. (See “Bellmore-Merrick Central District superintendent offers facilities tour,” at liherald.com/Bellmore or Merrick.)
The sink in the Mepham locker room is covered in plywood, and the urinals are cemented over because they are broken beyond repair.
Lab sinks at all five schools are coated by chemical stains. At Calhoun, gas lines in some labs have been disconnected because their release valves have long been inoperable.
Ceilings in schools across the district are stained brown because of roof and pipe leaks. The portico at Grand Avenue is in a perpetual state of decay, with paint and plaster continually peeling off because the roof above it leaks.