Aamaiyah Vaughan, president of the senior class at Glen Cove High School, hopes to one day be president of the United States. Her path to the White House would be easier, she says, if her school buildings weren’t falling apart.
While working on a social studies essay about Supreme Court rulings on state and federal powers on Sept. 25, Vaughan and her classmates were evacuated from the high school library after a piece of the ceiling dislodged and fell. Vaughan said, and her classmate Sarah Braja echoed, that ceiling tiles in the high school fall “all the time . . . and not just in the library.” They noted that in many classrooms, the guts of the building — wires and plumbing — were visible through the holes left by tiles that had fallen or had been removed and not replaced.
“It’s just depressing sometimes,” Vaughan said. “You learn to get used to it, especially going to a school like this, where there are several challenges that you have to work past.”
The students also told the Herald Gazette that the climate control in the buildings — or lack thereof — often left the floors damp with condensation. “Just today,” Vaughan said the day after she was ushered out of the library, “I think three kids fell in the hallway, slipping on the humidity.” Braja added that she had recently fallen down the stairs because of it.
“The safety of our students is always our highest priority,” the Glen Cove Board of Education wrote in a statement. “All facilities are regularly maintained to ensure that safety is never compromised.”
The incident in the library occurred the day before the school board heard a report from members of the Bond Committee, who presented a list of suggested building improvements. They ranged from window and door replacements to ceiling and floor renovations, security upgrades, improvements in district buildings’ heating and cooling and the construction of two-story additions to several buildings that would include extra classrooms, elevators and multi-use instructional spaces.
In addition to the problems noted by Vaughan and Braja, parents on the Bond Committee raised additional safety concerns. Committee member Amy Gallo, a teacher at Gribbin School, who focused at the meeting on issues at Deasy Elementary School, said that one of the building’s fire escapes was “rotted” and unusable, and many of the windows were too small to be used for a rescue if one was ever needed. In certain areas of the school, Gallo noted, “You can’t even hear the fire alarm system.” She added, “A lot of these things that we’re mentioning are about safety, things that are really essential.”
The Bond Committee — which was formed in January — consists of a parent and teacher from each school building; an architectural consultant, Michael Mark of Mark Design Studios; two school board members, Monica Alexandris-Miller and Alex Juarez; and a number of district employees whose roles intersect with the committee’s mission. It is exploring potential capital improvements that the district could fund by floating a bond.
After almost a year’s worth of meetings and walk-throughs of district facilities, the committee presented the board with $91.3 million worth of building improvement suggestions, which, after accounting for a projected $22.8 million in state aid, would cost about $68.5 million. Mark said that additional grants could be used to offset construction costs, but he did not estimate by how much. The proposal included a hypothetical structure of four rounds of borrowing between $20 million and $25 million per year.
Before making its suggestions, the committee had removed over $42 million worth of proposals from a more extensive priorities list that included a new track and artificial-turf field at Finley Middle School and an entirely new building for Deasy.
“The Board is committed to moving forward with a plan, in the form of a bond referendum,” the school board said in a statement, “that is multifaceted which will address current facility needs, and support innovative and challenging instructional programs and services for all students.”
Individual trustees declined to speak with the Herald Gazette. Alexandris-Miller did not comment on her experience with the building walk-throughs, saying that the board wants to “speak with one voice.”
“Keeping in mind their commitment to the community to be fiscally responsible,” the statement continued, “the Board will make a determination regarding an appropriate scope of work and explore all financial options to minimize the cost to the community. During this review process, the Board will go back to the Bond Committee if needed for additional information or clarification.”
After the committee’s presentation, school board President Gail Nedbor-Gross thanked members for their efforts in putting it together, adding, “It’s an awful lot for us to digest.”
Briefly describing the next steps for the committee and the school board, Superintendent Dr. Maria Rianna said that the board would announce its progress on Oct. 10, after it did “its due diligence.” She added that board members are “representative of different constituents,” and said that they would make a fiscally responsible decision.