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. "