Upon learning about the proposed $25 million bond for upgrading the three Manhasset school facilities, it is our opinion that dollars spent on larger rooms in science and the arts, air conditioning in the cafeterias, and two sports venues is an imprudent use of our taxpayer dollars, especially in light of the demographic studies which forecast diminishing student population, based on the current number of homes within Manhasset.
We feel that we have been deceived by the 2% tax cap. The school budget should include dollars allocated for school property repairs and renovations. We believe that if $1,000,000 were in the school budget for these purposes each year, the school would have $20,000,000 over 20 years without the need for issuance of bonds.
We are aware that 46 additional homes will be built on the property of the former
St. Ignatius retreat house, which is in our school district. Although this development will most likely increase the student population somewhat, it will also increase the tax base, with at least $500,000 going toward school taxes, which can fund necessary projects.
To specifically address the proposal to enlarge science rooms, for example, we believe better quality teachers are necessary for success, not larger rooms. Quality teachers create great schools, not wider walls and floors.
One creative idea which can address school crowding at the secondary school level is “split sessions”. Middle-school students can attend school during periods 1 – 9 (approximately 8:00 to 3:00) while high schools students can attend school periods 3 – 11 (approximately 9:30 to 4:30). Not only would there be an abundance of space during 4 periods each day for classes to “spread out”, but this would also free up field space for sports teams — with sports beginning at 3:10 for middle school and perhaps at 4:40 for high school. As for high school students, research has shown that teens learn better when school starts later, which would be an additional bonus of their starting classes at 9:30. Teachers would work the same number of hours during two “shifts”.
Consider the benefits split-sessions would bring to the cafeteria. Middle school students could have their lunch 4th, and 5th periods, and high school students could have their lunch 6th, 7th and 8th periods. Overcrowding, noise, long-lines, stress and overheating would be alleviated in the cafeteria, and there would be very little need to install expensive air conditioning.
One more bonus of “split-sessions” at the secondary school — perhaps the middle school will feel more like a separate middle school when those students start the day without sharing the halls with high school students.
Logistics can be worked out with school buses. This would be much less expensive and more flexible than permanently remodeling the secondary school. “Split-sessions” would also address the overcrowded and unsafe driving and pedestrian conditions during drop-offs and pick-ups. Perhaps bus service for high school students can be limited to 1.25 miles or more from the school, while elementary school children bus distances remain the same.
Logistics can also be worked out with sports teams. Since we will have more available fields with two sessions, more high school teams can be invited to our fields due to our later starting time of 4:40. With some ingenuity, these ideas can work.
With regard to renovating Memorial Field and the tennis courts with money from the proposed $25,000,000 bond, we suggest that donations raised through the Booster Club and our athletic organizations be used to fund these projects, not additional taxes through a bond.
With regard to the fine arts rooms (music and art) being expanded as part of the bond, we believe that these expansions are not sorely needed. Our students have continually performed strongly in these areas in their current facilities without consequence.
There are creative ideas that can be implemented without issuing a $25,000,000 bond.
Our taxes already include previously issued bonds from 2008, among others. We say enough layering of taxes upon taxes. It’s also interesting to note that once we repay our bonds, our taxes never fall.
Denise Anna Friscia