Bellmore-Merrick Central District superintendent offers facilities tour

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The bond proposal, prepared by BBS Architects, Landscape Architects and Engineers, includes $7.5 million for new artificial-turf athletics fields, $6 million for new bathrooms and $5 million for new science labs at all of the schools, as well as renovated music, art, faculty and guidance rooms, refinished gym floors, kitchen ceiling and lighting replacement, removal of vinyl asbestos tiles, masonry work, new doors where needed, and air-conditioning units in all classrooms and auditoriums, among other repairs.

The bond would also allow the district to move to a dual-fuel system that would enable it to switch between oil and natural gas, depending on which fuel is cheapest at any given time.

And, as part of the bond, the district is pursuing an energy performance contract, for which a private company would upgrade the lighting and heating systems to save energy, and the upgrades would be paid for through the annual cost savings that the district realizes. According to school officials, the district could save as much as $692,000 a year with better lighting and computer-controlled thermostats.

The fields question

Controversy over the bond has centered on the inclusion of synthetic-turf fields. A small number of residents have said they are too expensive. Others have questioned whether they are safe for students and the environment.

On the Herald Life’s tour, Saul Lerner, the Central District’s director of health, phys. ed. and athletics, said it has been impossible to maintain grass fields in recent years. He noted that the district seeded the fields more than once, watered them regularly and aerated them this summer. The grass grew, but did not last through the football season.

Lerner said that phys. ed. classes cannot use the athletic fields because they must “rest” for weekend games. At Calhoun, he pointed out a phys. ed. class that was playing soccer in the outfield of the back baseball field. And he said the football team practices in the outfield of the softball field, so that field is now torn up.

Decades without a bond
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