Waiver committee disagrees over architects’ report


The committee charged with reviewing the Central High School District’s school-choice policy and whether it is causing overcrowding at North High School must submit its recommendations to the school board by Jan. 15.

At the Dec. 7 meeting of the Citizens Advisory Committee, however, some members said they do not believe North High is close to capacity, and submitted recommendations in favor of keeping the school-choice policy.

The committee comprises parents, civic association members, representatives of the elementary school districts’ Boards of Education and members of the Valley Stream Teachers Association

“Once [the recommendations] come to me, I will put them in a report and I will disseminate that report to everyone in this group to make sure the report that I submit to this board accurately reflects the recommendations that you make,” Superintendent Bill Heidenreich said.

In February, the board will review recommendations, discuss possible legal issues with its attorney and ask committee members about their proposals, according to board Vice President John Maier. “The board will sit back, and the board will discuss it and the board will have the final decision to change something [about the waiver policy], to change nothing, [or] to change the whole thing,” he said.

Some members of the committee have already submitted their proposals to Heidenreich. Those proposals, which he read at the meeting, ranged from increasing funding for investigations into non-residents to changing the boundary lines for each high school.

Another recommendation was to re-evaluate the school’s functional-capacity study. Committee member Kathleen Dervin, a member of the William L. Buck School Parent Teacher Association, said that architects miscalculated the functional-capacity numbers earlier in the school year when they reported that the high schools were closer to their functional capacity than previously stated.

In October, architects from Patchogue-based BBS Architects & Engineers explained that North’s functional capacity — the number of students who could pursue the full range of activities comfortably given the building’s square footage — was 1,572. North’s current enrollment is 1,383, which is 88 percent of the calculated functional capacity and slightly above the national average of about 85 percent, according to the architectural firm. Heidenreich said that 88 percent was “crowding,” and that if North were to exceed 100 percent of its functional capacity, that would be “overcrowding.”

But Dervin suggested at the meeting that the new numbers were inaccurate because, for example, the architects said that the orchestra rooms can fit up to 35 students, even though there are not 35 orchestra members. In another instance, she said, the architects put the capacity for smaller rooms, such as resource rooms, at zero, although they may be occupied by as many as eight students at a time.

“In order to determine a real functional capacity, we have to determine whether we’re anywhere near that,” Dervin said. “We need solid numbers.”

In response, Heidenreich said that she could make a recommendation to get a second opinion on the functional capacity, but Dervin said that another architect might also produce inaccurate numbers.

Committee member Dalis Jean-Baptiste, who represents Clear Stream Avenue School, also said that he was opposed to hiring another architect at taxpayers’ expense. “We’ve already spent close to $13,000 to find out . . . what the expert says on that, and now we’re going to give another $13,000 to a different person?” Jean-Baptiste asked. “I hope that’s not what’s happening, because we could use that money for our children.”

The cost of the study of North High School was actually $5,362.50, according to Heidenreich, who added that he expected the costs for similar studies for Central and South high schools to be similar.

The proposals will be presented to the Board of Education in executive session on Feb. 6.