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Voting on Lawrence schools and Peninsula library budgets is May 11

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While the proposed Lawrence School District budget for the 2021-22 school year is identical to the current operating budget – $102,490,053 with 0 percent tax-cap increase – one thing has changed since Assistant superintendent for Business and Operations Jeremy Feder unveiled the preliminary fiscal plan in March: Lawrence will not lose nearly $60,000 in state aid.

Thanks to money coming to New York state through the most recent federal stimulus plan known as the American Rescue Plan, the school district is now expected to receive $13,535,067 in state aid, a $1,476,273 bump or 12.24 percent more than previously thought.

“We are grateful for the additional state aid,” Feder said, “it will ensure Lawrence School District’s continued ability for programmatic enhancements.”

The proposed fiscal plan includes money for the health, safety and security of the district’s students staff with continued upgrades to building security, including a security booth on the main floor of the Broadway Campus that houses the elementary school and the middle school, along with improvements to inside and outside doors and locks.

Capital projects entail renovation and enhancements of the Broadway Campus’s corridor and sports complex, including the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. Renovations and upgrades of the building’s cafeteria, along with HVAC and the same for classrooms. There will also be roof repair, Federal Emergency Management Agency projects and network infrastructure upgrades.

On the May 11 ballot, the budget is Proposition No. 1. Proposition No. 2 is the Peninsula Public Library budget – $3,108.250 – also remaining flat. Propositions Nos. 3 and 4 are referendums for approval to establish building capital reserve funds for $5 million each for the projects that range from classroom renovations to heating ventilation air conditioning system installations. The typical term for a reserve fund is 10 years, however both funds will exist until the money has been totally spent, the proposition reads.

Proposition No. 5 concerns the purchase of a residential property at 287 Mott Ave., Inwood, roughly 5,562-square feet for an amount not to exceed $400,000. There is a two-story, 1,072-square-foot house, built in 1920 on the property that will be demolished.

The district originally planned to acquire the property to create 14 parking spaces and “reconfigure” the recreation area. The revised plan calls for a multi-sport area on the acquired space for the Lawrence Primary School at the Number Two School. No parking would be added to the already existing 94 spaces. The play area would be geared to children aged 5 to 12 and could be used by children 2 to 12.

Lawrence Superintendent Dr. Ann Pedersen said previously the school houses younger children than it did a few years. It has an enrollment of 500 students in kindergarten, first and second grade, ranging from ages 5 to 7, she said.

Highlighting the benefit of play, Pedersen said it translates into better classroom performance and increased social skills among children, pointing to a 2018 Harvard report that showed children are not likely to be reading at grade level in eighth grade if they are not at level in third grade. “By improving play, we are going to help build a better brain,” she said at a February 2020 Board of Education meeting.

Voting is on May 11 from 7 am. to 10 p.m. at these locations: Primary School at the Number Two School, 1 Donahue Ave., Inwood; Lawrence Middle School, 195 Broadway, Lawrence; Lawrence High School, 2 Reilly Road, Cedarhurst and Atlantic Beach Village Hall, 65 The Plaza.