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Abrams Use Splits Board Again

Plan for kindergarten enrichment, town program meet different fates.

It wasn't on the agenda, but once again, was at the center of attention as emotions heated up at Monday night's Huntington school board meeting.

The main event at the sparsely attended meeting was expected to be a public hearing about the 2011-2012 budget of $109 million, adopted by the board April 11 and on the ballot next week. Instead, departing trustee Christine Bene put the school and the reduction of kindergarten hours together, which set off a series of testy exchanges.

When the board decided to reduce kindergarten to half-day schedules,  the Huntington YMCA  and began trying to find space for parents needing help with the remainder of the day. Bene,  also a member of the FSL board, said she was asked to request that the groups be able to use Abrams, which the school board voted, 4-3, to close to students last summer because of concerns about crime in the vicinity.

Bene, who had voted to keep the school open, said, "It would be helping our parents for a year. What are they going to do with the kids for half a day? It's a win-win situation because we'd get something for it."

But board president Bill Dwyer, who had  voted to close it, said, "We need to look at a longterm plan to get back into building but not until we're ready.  I think if we're going to look at that we look at something more than kindergarten students.

"For me personally, given that I was one of the ones who voted to close it, it would be hypocritical" to allow the use.

That comment provoked trustee Kim Brown to snap, "Really, Bill? The hypocritical thing is that the fencing team, the wrestling teams, use it. It's silly."

The board took no formal vote. The discussion blurred into another about whether the school should continue to host Project Play, a day camp for disadvantaged kids ages 6-12, sponsored by the town's minority affairs office.  Trustee Richard McGrath was absent as the board voted 4-2 to host the camp again, with John Paci and Liz Black voting against the plan. Trustee Emily Rogan, who has brought up the school several times in the last several months, said earlier  she was conflicted about the kindergarten program but voted for the town program.

The board's decision brought objections from Donna Blair, who called it "an embarrassment," and added, "If this building is not safe for all kids, it is not safe for any kids. You can have the program in another building."

"Speaking as taxpayer and a 47-year resident of the district, I  am ashamed of this district. We don't have to wait for a year; we can open this building in September and probably save money in transportation. "

 

JSC May 10, 2011 at 08:29 PM
This board is showing how confused and befuddled they have been and continue to be! Ok, they decided to keep JAI closed for another year - apparently- we don't really know because they don't really talk about it much. But I guess it's not in the budget, so that's a done deal. They also decided to cut Kindergarten to half day, which saves them some money by cutting staff, and gives them an extra room in each primary building. Parents are basically in a frenzy, trying to figure out what they are going to do with their Kindergarteners for the other half of the day - and they don't know which half of the day they are going to school yet. Makes it impossible to make plans, how do you sign up for another program if you don't know what time of day they'll be going there? Several preschools are attempting to fill the void by offering Kindergarten enrichment type programs so the children have a safe and educational place to go. The district gives the UPK program to Family Service League, and now FSL in conjunction with the YMCA, want to offer a program, hopefully using a few classrooms in JAI - since it's sitting there empty! Dwyer decides it's not a good idea - because he doesn't have a long-range plan for JAI yet? That makes no sense. But then the board votes to allow the Town to use JAI for Project Play. HELLO? Yes to one group, no to another? WHY? Parents need this space for their children, if they so choose. It makes money for the district. What's wrong here?
Susan Fasciano May 11, 2011 at 11:42 AM
How is it the building/area was declared unsafe to operate as an Elementary school but now is suitable for other groups to use it? Perhaps I am missing something here but to me as a parent the area is still not safe enough so why would the District or Town permit any group use the space? Both the District and Town are sending very mixed messages to residents and setting themselves up for a potential liability issue.
Whatiswrongwiththesepeople? May 13, 2011 at 01:08 AM
why'd ya take my comment down? Can't handle the truth?
David Livingston May 13, 2011 at 10:55 AM
Make it optional. There are parents out there that deem it safe for their kids.

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