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Friday, September 19, 2014
Cuts looming for W.H. schools
Howard Schwach
Closing the 100-year-old Chestnut Street School would save $500,000, but several new classrooms would be needed at other schools.

Unless the West Hempstead schools find a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow somewhere near Hempstead Avenue, there will be major cuts in both personnel and class time in 2013-14.

That was the consensus of district officials at the most recent Budget Café, held at the West Hempstead Middle School on March 6.

Those cuts would include up to a dozen staff positions at the high school and middle school, the ninth period at those schools, a foreign language survey course and critical writing.

The staff positions would be lost as a result of the dropped period, and would come from middle school and high school English, social studies, math, science, foreign languages, business, art, music and physical education.

At the high school, electives would be offered in alternating years rather than every year in a four-year rotation, which would ensure that all students would be able to take those electives sometime during their high school career.

Advanced Placement courses would continue on schedule, as would regular course offerings.

Participants at the Budget Café questioned the administration’s dedication to finding new streams of revenue to offset cuts in state and federal aid. The district’s deputy superintendent for business, Richard Cunningham, said that officials are exploring “creative revenue-producing” ideas such as leasing the roofs of the district’s buildings to solar energy companies and leasing parking spots to transportation companies. In addition, officials said they are close to a deal with an educational institution that would lease approximately 40 percent of the unused Marian Delaney School on Eagle Avenue, a building that was previously leased by BOCES. BOCES ended its lease and left last June. Administrators said they have considered selling the building, but concluded that leasing it is more “promising” — though the sale option might be back on the table if leasing does not work. A resident who attended the café suggested another revenue-saving proposal, closing the 100-year-old Chestnut Street School. Officials said that the district could save $500,000 on administrative and building costs if the school were shuttered, but two new classrooms would be needed at the Cornwell Street School and five more, including a self-contained special education classroom, would be needed at the George Washington School.

When administrators were asked how the district could maintain its educational programs with such drastic cuts, the answer was succinct. “We don’t have a choice,” said Cunningham. “We have to.”

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