On Jan. 8, at the first of three consecutive weekly school bond meetings, the Rockville Centre Board of Education decided, preliminarily, that the district would seek to borrow just over $32 million for renovations to South Side High School and the administration building.
Assistant Superintendent Robert Bartels estimated that the cost of the school bond to the average village homeowner would be $45 per year for every $10 million the district borrows.
The second meeting, on Tuesday, after the Herald went to press, was to focus on the funding needed for work on South Side Middle School and the elementary schools. The last meeting, on Jan. 22, will be a review and finalization of the decisions made in the first two meetings. Each of the meetings was scheduled to include a question-and-answer session among members of the public, the Board of Education and BBS Architects & Engineers, a firm based in Patchogue that the district has hired to coordinate the renovations. The bond vote will take place on March 19.
At the Jan. 8 meeting, school board trustees examined a list of requests from the RVC School Improvement Bond Compact Committee and the architectural recommendations line by line, in the interest of reducing costs where possible. From the original list, the trustees and architects were able to cut nearly $1.4 million.
Make it whole
The board approved in full the most expensive portion of the bond — the suggested new construction and renovation of the high school, which would result in the elimination of the portable units and the creation of permanent classrooms connected to the school.
According to Roger Smith, BBS’s principal architect, the removal of the classrooms in the portables behind the school would help make the school safer — a goal of renewed importance after the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
“That would be, number one, I think the greatest amount of security that you could change with this school,” Smith said. “You have a large number of doors that are open all day long … to be able to flex from those portables into the main building. When the addition is put in place, that is eliminated and security changes dramatically.”
According to Superintendent Dr. William Johnson, the high school cannot be locked down in an emergency because of the need to allow students to move between the main building and the portables.
Kevin Walsh, the lead designer, presented a map showing the two-story additions to the northwest and southeast corners of the school, and explained that the renovations would help alleviate the congestion in the hallways and more evenly distribute the student population.
A place for athletes
It was standing-room-only for a large portion of the meeting, though a majority of the residents and students who attended appeared to be most concerned with the trustees’ decision on the suggested improvements to the high school’s athletic field.
Kevin Bohn, president of the Rockville Centre Soccer Club, delivered a statement to the school board, explaining why the suggested upgrades, which include a synthetic-turf field inside the running track, a synthetic softball infield within that field and a synthetic practice field with lighting, are so important.
“Field scheduling in our community is an extremely challenging activity,” Bohn said. “There is more demand for space than can be supplied by the existing fields. There is simply not enough space for the high school teams, without even considering the needs of the community-based organizations.”
One resident suggested that the bond might have a greater chance of passing if it were put to a vote alongside the budget, rather than as a special vote in March.
School board President Liz Dion said that while there is generally a greater turnout for the budget vote in May, the two-month difference could set construction back further.
Assuming the bond passes, Smith explained, it would take six months to design and create construction drawings to submit to the State Education Department, another four months to obtain a permit from the state and another two months to take bids on the construction. The construction would take an additional 16 to 18 months.
“If you are moving ahead for a March vote … then we will not be breaking ground this summer,” said Smith.
He did say that some smaller parts of the bond, including the construction on the fields, could begin earlier.
High School Bond Highlights
New construction $17,760,000
Interior renovation $4,260,000
Spatial casework, technology and equipment $3,150,000
Synthetic turf inside running track $1,550,000
Spatial site work and environmental $1,150,000
Auditorium upgrades $550,000
Synthetic turf practice field $460,000
Mechanical fresh air $450,000
Smoke doors/stair enclosures $410,000
Administration building renovation $300,000
Running track repairs $290,000
Practice field lighting $280,000
Replace hall lockers $250,000
Air conditioning main assembly spaces $225,000
New grandstand/bleachers $225,000
Replace press box $175,000
Replace PE lockers $170,000
Carpet replacements $120,000
Locksets and door hardware $100,000