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Riverhead school facilities need $ 100 million expansion and modernization, officials say

By on September 11, 2019 0

Riverhead school facilities need a $ 100 million expansion and modernization to keep pace with population growth in the district, according to a capital facility proposal submitted by school officials at the education council meeting last night.

The district unveiled a $ 99.9 million construction bond proposal to expand and improve the district’s current assets. Officials said they had given up on the idea of ​​buying and renovating the old Bishop McGann-Mercy High School campus, in large part because it would cost $ 125.6 million.

“There were several factors that played into our decision, but in the end it really came down to the [additional] $ 25 million more to go to the public, ”school board president Greg Meyer said in an interview.

The proposal, presented last night at an exceptionally well-attended school board meeting in the high school cafeteria, is the result of several studies and projections – including a Western Suffolk BOCES long-range planning study – which examined the current and planned increase in student enrollment, particularly at the secondary level, and its impact on the area’s space needs.

Riverhead School Board President Greg Meyer, center, discusses the district’s plan to modernize and expand its capital at the school board meeting on September 10, 2019.
Photo: Maria Piedrabuena

Riverhead, unlike other school districts in the area, has seen an increase in enrollment over the past 10 years. The total number of enrollments in the district increased from 4,816 students in 2009-2010 to 5,595 students in 2018-2019, an increase of over 16%.

This historic increase, said district architect Kevin Walsh, has created an urgent need for more space to accommodate students.

Currently, Pulaski Street Primary School is at 114% of capacity, high school at 98% of capacity and middle school at 70%, according to data provided by the district. Overall, all other elementary schools are at or below 85 percent capacity, which is the optimal target for the entire district, Meyer said.

Some parents disagreed with this assessment yesterday, saying it’s not just high schools that are affected. Some Kindergarten and Grade 2 students at Riley’s Primary School, they said, were sent to Aquebogue Primary School, where there are fewer students because some of Riley’s classes, they said, are at full capacity.

Jason Ranghelli of Riverhead, whose children attend Riley Avenue Elementary School, questioned the district’s plan for space needs at the elementary school level. Photo: Maria Piedrabuena

“I am very concerned as a teacher, as a union leader, as a member of the community, I am very concerned about the size of the classes, because, we all know, with research, these fundamental years, how important it is, ”Riverhead resident Jason Ranghelli, who has three children at Riley Elementary School, said. “I know the focus is now on secondary, but what about primary? ”

Meyer said in an interview that overall elementary school enrollment numbers are “in a fairly decent shape as far as space is concerned,” and although he agrees with some parents for Saying that smaller classes are important, especially at certain levels, the district will need to prioritize and focus on immediate needs.

“It’s that fine line that you walk. If you want to add more classrooms, it’s more and more money, ”he said. “We need to focus on our current needs and our future needs, and on what is planned. ”

According to the presentation of BBS Architects, Landscape Architects and Engineers, the new improvements would include:

  • the addition of 24 new classrooms at the secondary school, the expansion of the cafeteria area, the increase in physical education locker space and the elimination of the north modules;
  • combine the student populations of Pulaski Street Primary School and Riverhead Middle School, to create two buildings to house grades 5 to 8;
  • the reconfiguration of the existing sports facilities and parking areas, including the construction of a new synthetic turf pitch and an athletic track for the stadium;
  • construction of a new 20,000 square foot administrative building, which will house the district office and school personnel departments;
  • the construction of a new 14,000 square foot sports complex that will house a 115 foot by 91 foot indoor turf field and athletic track, as well as bathrooms, coat storage areas and training rooms. team meeting ;
  • the construction of a new memorial garden with the moved “victory bell”; and
  • construct a new lighted intra-campus boulevard that would connect everything so that students and staff could walk from one building to another without leaving the campus on side streets.

Meyer stressed the importance of the new land house. He said the district had space issues for indoor gymnasiums and indoor training competitions 10 years ago, but a proposal to add a second gymnasium at the college was then “closed. “by taxpayers. He said the need for an indoor recreational space has only grown since then and cited the winter track team as an example, which has around 160 participating students and now has to train by running in the corridors of the school.

“I thank God that no child has ever slipped, fallen and cracked their skull,” Meyer said.

He also said the district would be open to “teaming up” with the Town of Riverhead Recreation Department, which in turn could provide activities at the new sports complex for the entire community.

In addition, the bond would also include investment projects such as replacement or repair of roofs, new boilers, toilets and other improvements in different schools, replacement of LED lighting on a scale of the district and district security program upgrades.

The McGann-Mercy alternative, Walsh explained, would have meant a purchase price of $ 14 million, plus about an additional $ 47 million to bring it up to current New York State school safety standards, along with other necessary capital expenditures, which would bring the total cost to $ 125.6 million. Additional costs not yet estimated, such as staffing, maintenance and transportation for the new building, should also be factored in, Walsh said.

“There were just too many unknowns out there,” Meyer said. “We were afraid to get involved in something that could have turned into a money pit. ”

Meyer said that in addition to the $ 99.9 million bond proposal, voters in the district will also have to decide whether or not to approve a second proposal that would unify all preschool programs into one building or wing. at Phillips Avenue Elementary School. This project would have an additional cost of $ 8.3 million.

Officials have scheduled four community forums to discuss the proposal. They will be held at Riverhead High School (Room 133) on Thursday, September 19 from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., Tuesday October 15, Tuesday October 22 and Tuesday October 29 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.

If the district goes ahead with the plan, the link could be put to a district-wide vote as early as January 2020. A completion date in the fall of 2023 is expected.

In October 2011, district voters approved a $ 78.3 million capital construction bond for renovations, improvements and additions to school buildings in the district. The three-year construction project began in 2012 and was completed in the summer of 2015. Work included a two-story addition to the high school that added 15 new classrooms, four science labs and offices. at the cutting edge of technology; new cafeterias, classrooms and bathrooms in other school buildings, as well as infrastructure works, equipment upgrades and improvements to sports facilities.

The October 2011 bond was a scaled-down version of a $ 124 million capital construction bond overwhelmingly rejected by district voters in February 2010.

Riverhead Central School District Facility Review 2019 through RiverheadLOCAL on Scribd

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