Looking into the future at Hewlett-Woodmere School District


The Hewlett-Woodmere School District unveiled an $18.3 million capital project on Jan. 17, with the aim of renovating Hewlett High School and Woodmere Middle School.

“We’re at the point where we’ve developed the scope of the project,” Superintendent Ralph Marino said at a presentation at the Hewlett firehouse. “We’re looking for community feedback.”

The school district is planning to upgrade the science rooms in both schools, redesign the high school auditorium and replace the artificial-turf field at the high school. A public vote, which is required to approve the project, has been scheduled for May 16.

“Several of the science rooms at Woodmere Middle School received partial renovations and upgrades in summer 2012,” Kim Parahus, the district’s director of facilities and operations, wrote in an email. “Hewlett High School’s science labs were last renovated in 2004.”

The redesign of the high school auditorium is expected to include a new lobby entrance as well as balcony seating and new flooring, doors and paint. The facility has not undergone any major renovations since new seating was installed 19 years ago, Parahus said, although the sound system was replaced several years ago.

In addition to the new turf field, a new walkway leading to the field will be built, and the tennis courts will be resurfaced.

“We’re getting to that point where the ... field is reaching its life expectancy” of eight to 10 years, Marino said. The grass field was converted to synthetic turf in 2003, which was last upgraded in July 2011.

Building aid from the state will help fund the project. Districts are assigned a building aid ratio based on their property value. The district’s building aid ratio is 46.4 percent, so $8.9 million in state aid will be available for the project, leaving a net cost of $9.4 million.

“Building aid is received as part of the overall (annual) state aid package,” Marie Donnelly, assistant superintendent of finance and personnel, explained in an email. “Once the projects are completed and final cost reports filed with the state, we would be eligible for building aid over a 15-year period.”

Over a period of time, aid is paid based on the type of project — 15 years for renovations.

The schools are a valuable community resource, Marino said, and in addition to providing students with the latest equipment and technology, updating the buildings helps attract new families to the district. “One of the district’s goals is to provide our students with access to the most modern facilities and equipment to maximize their educational experiences and remain competitive in academics, the arts and athletics,” he said in an email.

“As a parent, I feel it is important for sustaining the district’s infrastructure,” Hewlett resident Sahar Saeed, who has three children in the district, in eighth, sixth and fifth grades, said of the planned renovations. “It improves the teaching-learning environment and reconfiguration of existing spaces, and (adds) some more.”

Saeed added, however, that she was concerned about how the construction might affect district students’ education. “The scope and the schedule of the renovation is something that I think some parents would be concerned about,” she said. “I don’t want my children to not have access to facilities because they are not operational.”

Marino said that if voters approve the project, the district will develop a timeline and construction schedule in order to minimize the impact on students, staff and community members.

Have an opinion on the proposed capital projects? Send a letter to jbessen@liherald.com.