Huntington Union Free School District pupils headed to class on Tuesday morning but to one less school this year.
The July decision by the Board of Education to close Jack Abrams Intermediate School and put all fifth- and sixth-graders at Woodhull Intermediate School because of crime worries stirred passions and anger on both sides, not all of which has dimmed.
While parents who pushed for the school to close may be happy, others who either think their Huntington Station neighborhood is being abandoned or that Woodhull can't easily accommodate a surge of students are less than satisfied. Many voters who rejected funds in August for improvements at Woodhull said they did so because they opposed the closing of Abrams and the resulting dispersal or retention of students at other schools.
But Jim Hoops, public information coordinator for the Huntington School District, said that about 325 students who attended Abrams last year are the only ones making previously unplanned moves.
"The students who actually are moving to a new building are last year's fourth- and fifth-graders at Jack Abrams School," Hoops said. "They will be going to Woodhull. The fifth-graders who would have gone to Abrams from Woodhull will simply stay put." And one of the people making the move is principal Mary Stokkers, who is leaving Abrams for the same post at Woodhull.
Some in Huntington Station have said they feel slighted, and find the closing the wrong solution because the violence is often committed by people from other communities and not on school property or during school hours.
"Kids shouldn't be moved. The cops should be doing something," said 16-year-old Shalieek Belmare, a 10th-grader at Huntington High School this year and an Abrams graduate. "There are kids now who have to go to Woodhull – it's kind of far."
And Mahkia Warren, another 10th-grader and Abrams graduate said he didn't like the idea of the school closing. "It's not really necessary," Warren said, because the crime is occurring at night or weekends when school is closed.
But as school opened Tuesday, not everything is known at this point, Hoops acknowledged. "Class size guidelines have increased at some grade levels. We don't know final class sizes yet because we have to see who actually reports to school. ... Depending on the enrollment, some sections could split and result in new classes and lower sizes. This might take a week or two to shake out."
Hoops added, "This is completely normal and happens every year."
As far as extra transportation costs because of the last-minute schedule changes brought about by the board's decision, Hoops said the numbers haven't yet been tabulated. "Expenses could come in less than they would have had the district operated eight buildings instead of the seven that will be operating," he explained. "We will know more in a couple of weeks."