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Heidenreich: Central High School District working to fix North issues

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Central High School District Superintendent Bill Heidenreich announced at a Board of Education meeting on May 14 that he and other district officials have been working to address issues at North High School regarding cleanliness since students originally raised their concerns in March.

“I am confident that our district is doing its best to provide a clean, safe and secure environment for all students and staff in our district,” Superintendent Bill Heidenreich said. “As a district, we will continue to monitor our building conditions as we have always done and address any issues that may arise.”

The announcement came in response to reports that the school has had problems with mold; overflowing garbage cans; disconnected gas lines in the school’s science classrooms, preventing students from completing state-mandated labs; as well as what was described as an “unidentifiable substance” in a science classroom sink and a lack of desks in the rooms.

Heidenreich told the Herald that he and several board members recently walked the perimeter of the school to experience the conditions first hand.

“We walked the entire building and found what I believe to be a clean, safe and orderly building in which the district’s students could learn and prosper,” he said, adding that district officials are trying to remediate any issues that they did see.

He said that a planned roof replacement at North has been completed, which may end the issue of stained ceiling tiles, and that he brought in a Nassau BOCES Health and Safety liaison to investigate air quality. Heidenreich also added that the district replaces furniture on an annual basis and allocated funds for more desks in the 2019 – 20 budget, but maintained that “at no point” had he seen a lack of student desks. He did say, however, that some rooms had to be closed due to a lack of heat this past winter, when district officials had difficulty repairing the building’s aging heating system.

As for the science classrooms, Heidenreich said, the district’s facilities director did notice several sink and eye wash issues, and the Maintenance Department has begun to repair them. Additionally, he said, the district moved a substitute cleaner to North to work on a full-time basis and filled a custodial vacancy to ensure that North High School remains clean.

But parents at the meeting said more needs to be done. Valerie Koches said “there are tons of pictures” of “mold, leaks [and] disgusting filth that these children are living in every day,” and that “North High School is not reflective of where we live.”

In response, Heidenreich asked when the photographs were taken, and when Koches replied that they were taken about a month prior, Trustee Toni Pomerantz said improvements have been made since. But Koches said that if the board wanted more recent photos, “the children are armed and ready with their phones.”

Joseph Romeo also said that he walked around the school with the administration and made it a point to view room 319, a science laboratory that many students reported having maintenance and cleanliness issues. Romeo asked Heidenreich what he saw in the room, and said that he recalled a science teacher saying that she could not use a Bunsen burner for two years due to a lack of gas.

And Lori D’Andrea told the board that she wants her children to have a “clean home” at North, “and yes, I know you’re working hard, and we have seen improvements … but you’re fixing it with a Band-aid. You can’t take mold and paint it over” because the students will know.

“…All I’m saying is we can do better,” she said.