Parents Voice Concerns on Options to Repurpose Schools

Superintendent David Weiss speaking at Tuesday's Board of Education meeting at Middle School. (Credit: Joe Kellard)
Superintendent David Weiss speaking at Tuesday's Board of Education meeting at Middle School. (Credit: Joe Kellard)

Several parents and residents sounded off for nearly three hours on the Long Beach School District’s proposed options to repurpose the elementary schools at the Board of Education meeting Tuesday.

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The issues most parents who addressed the board were most concerned about included:

  • the approximate $1.6 million the options are projected to initially save the district, representing about 1 percent of the overall operating costs of the budget;
  • the options that call for closing East School as an elementary school to use for administrative offices;
  • the impact of multiple transitions of students between buildings throughout their pre-K to elementary school careers;

The five proposed options, narrowed down from the original eleven, are as follows:

  • Option B calls for repurposing East School as an administration building without any change in grade configurations at the other three elementary schools;  
  • Option C involves reconfiguring Lido School as an early learning center for pre-K through first grade, with East, West and Lindell schools serving grades two through five;
  • Option D proposes a reconfiguration of Lido, East and West schools to serve pre-K through grade one, Lindell would serve as an intermediate school for all students in grades three to five, and Lido School would house administration offices;
  • Option E would repurpose East School as an administration building, reconfigure Lido and West schools as primary schools serving pre-K through grade two, and Lindell would serve as an intermediate school for all students in grades three to five.  
  • Option A calls for maintaining the status quo at all buildings.

The options were deemed the most educationally viable in a report of the district-commissioned Facilities Utilization Study Group. The group was tasked with developing the options in order to find more efficient use of the district’s eight buildings, in part by addressing matters such as decreasing enrollment and housing the administration offices under one roof after the original building was heavily damaged in Hurricane Sandy.

The proposed options were presented at two prior board meetings in November and December. At Tuesday’s meeting, Superintendent David Weiss presented the financial data associated with the five options, which are estimated to initially save the district about $1.6 million on a projected $123 million budget.

Savings and Educational Benefits

During his opening remarks, Weiss said that a key piece to the options is to find savings that would allow the district to sustain programs for students. “So, this is in part financial; long-term it’s about efficiencies and it’s about maintaining programs in a sustainable way over time,” he said.

While one parent who addressed the school board, Kevin Heller, said he applauded the board’s efforts to try to keep costs down, many other parents, such as Angelo Lomonte, questioned whether the amount in savings to repurpose was worth it.

“By my math, we’re talking about just about 1 percent savings,” Lomonte said. “We’re going to gamble our kids futures on one percent? Really? One percent? I’m sorry, I can’t take a one-percent gamble on my kid’s future.”

In addressing this issue, Trustee Dennis Ryan said that one reason the board was proposing the options was for educational benefits. “The primary issue for me is an educational one,” he said. “Are the children going to be better served in other schools?”

Closing East School

Kelly Martinsen was among several parents who called for removing the option to repurpose East School solely for administrative offices, citing studies that she said found property values drop when schools are closed.

"To even consider closing a school for children and opening an administration building is irresponsible thinking at best, and at worst it could lead to devastating consequences for our entire community,” Martinsen said.

Gerri Maquet, a former co-president of the district’s PTA Council, said that while the district had to move students to other schools after Hurricane-damaged buildings were under repair, moving students for repurposing was unnecessary and untimely. “I just truly believe that this is not the time to bring this up again ... with what has happened with Sandy,” Maquet said.

Ryan called the decision to close a school “extremely emotional.” “Any closing is an emotional issue … and it’s only been compounded by Sandy,” he said.

Michael DeVito, the district’s chief operating officer, said that since the district’s Sandy-damaged administration building on Lido Boulevard was closed after the storm, administrators now work in separate buildings throughout the district. The district looks to consolidate their offices under one roof because “we work better together,” DeVito said.

The cost to repair the former administration building is about $10 million, whereas the cost to renovate one of the five elementary schools for administrative offices is about $2 million, DeVito said.  

He said that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is expected to reimburse the district up to 90 percent for these costs, as part of a combined $35 million in projected costs for Sandy-related rebuilding.

Making the Transition

Many parents expressed concerns about the potential negative impact that moving children to other schools could have on them. Some cited research that they said found transitions generally have negative impacts on students academically, emotionally and socially. Others said the negative impact is heightened for certain students. "Kids with special needs have a much harder time with transitions," said one parent.

Weiss agreed with some of the findings cited, but said that there is mixed evidence on many transitional issues.

“The research does suggest that transitions are problematic in performance and there are known dips when there is a transition,” he said. But he explained that once the district identifies these issues, staff such as a transition counselor can work on them. He also noted that transition will nevertheless occur if the existing structure is kept, with pre-K students moving to the new pre-K center at the Lido Complex next school year, just as pre-k students transitioned from the former Blackheath school.  

“So, the question becomes where is the transition, not whether there will be one for our students,” he said.  

What's Next?

Both Weiss and Trustee Patrick Gallagher said Tuesday that as a group the board hadn’t made a decision on the options, and they plan to gather further input from the community. The board trustees are scheduled to meet with the East School PTA at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, after which they will travel to each school to talk with staff and students as part of their input-gathering mission. On Jan. 21, the board will hold a community forum at Middle School for the same purpose.

* This story was updated at 10 a.m. on 1.15.14.

Lido Shuffle January 15, 2014 at 08:16 AM
The Executive Board of the Long Beach Classroom Teachers opposes any reorganization of the Long Beach Public Schools which increases class sizes. Furthermore, we believe that in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy the social and emotional well-being of the our students and their families, as well as the community as a whole, will be negatively impacted by any reorganization and that the unintended consequences of the relocation of our students should be more fully explored before any option is adopted.
paul.d.spellman January 15, 2014 at 09:12 AM
Furthermore, and more importantly the Executive Board of the Long Beach Classroom Teachers opposes any reorganization of the Long Beach Public Schools which decreases employee headcount.
CP January 15, 2014 at 09:20 AM
4 elementary schools, plus pre-k in Long Beach and lots of empty seats last night. One questions that came up last night is why are other schools like Garden City and schools on the North Shore better then us. Well to start if they were doing this there, it would be standing room only at every meeting. Very sad that I know more parents that attended the ceremony to take down the boardwalk or attend Irish day, over last nights meeting. These are our children that we are talking about and their education and any change even if it stays the same is going to affect all of our children.
paul.d.spellman January 15, 2014 at 09:35 AM
Furthermore, the Executive Board of the Long Beach Classroom Teachers laughs at any parent who thinks attending these meetings would have any impact on the decision to be made. The employees of the district, and their families, are the ones who elect the members of the school board and as such they will do the bidding of the employees. While CP and others think their voice will be heard it is highly unlikely and most parents realize their time would be better spent attending the Boardwalk ceremonies(rumor is there will be 3 more this summer) or Irish Day rather than waste their time attending a meeting about the reorganization of the Long Beach Public Schools.
Matthew Adler January 15, 2014 at 10:28 AM
$1.6 million dollars in saving is not 100% true. If you read the fine print in year two the district will have to hire 3 teachers because of an increase of enrollment. As for the research with class size and student achievement, their is a direct correlation between the two. Here is a link to a study done that shows "that attending a small class increases the rate of college attendance, with the largest positive impact on black and poor students. Among those students with the lowest predicted probability of attending college, a small class increased rate of college attendance by 11 percentage points. Attending a small class also increases the probability of earning a college degree, and to shift students toward earning degrees in high-earning fields such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), business and economics.” http://users.nber.org/~dynarski/Dynarski_Hyman_Schanzenbach.pdf Here is another study showing that "States with higher per-pupil spending, lower class sizes and more pre-K have higher achievement levels. Disadvantaged children are the most likely to gain benefits from such programs.” http://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/monograph_reports/2000/MR924.pdf
CP January 15, 2014 at 10:51 AM
Paul, you have something to say about everything. If I went through every article on this site, your rants would be there. I on the other hand show up to meetings instead of getting all my info from patch and when I speak I know what I'm talking about. You say highly unlikely my voice will be heard. Well guess what, when it comes to my children if there is 1% or even a 1/2% that my voice is going to be heard. I'm showing up.
paul.d.spellman January 15, 2014 at 10:54 AM
Matthew, Do you know what states spends the highest per pupil and which states spends the lowest? and also what is the HS graduation rate for each of those states?
paul.d.spellman January 15, 2014 at 11:00 AM
CP, that is good, you should attempt to have your voice heard, but look at the numbers. Investigate how many people voted last May for the school board elections, how many employees of the district live in the district and you will see that whatever and whomever those employees want passed is what will pass. How many members of the board are just parents with no connection to the unions or political hacks in this town? ZERO, who will be there first concern be? my kids? your kids? or the employees of the district?
Noway Jose January 15, 2014 at 12:12 PM
Paul, Why is it you always come off sounding like a grouchy old guy who screams at kids to stay off your lawn? How could you believe that the hard working employees of the district run the show? Are you aware that the 450 members of the Long Beach Schools Employees Association have been working without a raise for more than four years and during that time have seen many of their peers fired and/or have had their hours cut even though most of them live in the district. If they control the Board then they are doing a pretty poor job of protecting their self interests.
joanne January 15, 2014 at 01:18 PM
@ Paul...just for your info ***NO RESPONSE NECESSARY*** Employee's of the District CANNOT vote for Board members. You must be a resident of the District. That being said,who in their right mind wouldn't vote for the person they feel would best protect their interest? Dont need to hold a degree to figure that one out!!!
paul.d.spellman January 15, 2014 at 01:36 PM
Joanne, I am aware of the election laws and who is entitled to vote in our elections. Let's review: I asked how many people voted last May and (follow closely) how many employees of the district live in the district. Since so few people vote in the May elections and we have such a high number of district employees (including their families) living in the district and voting in the May elections, the results of those votes are determined overwhelmingly by employees of the district. Feel free to respond.
LBMom January 15, 2014 at 01:51 PM
What about NIKE? What are the costs associated with our alternative high school? Could the district save any money by incorporating those students (less than 50, I believe) into a similar program within the High School? Isn't the real problem the pensions/benefits that continue to increase? We can close all the schools and still have very high taxes! As for other districts north of here. It is true, I have lived there. No one moves to Long Beach for a quality education. People do move into school districts for that reason but people move to Long Beach for a life style. I would be great if we could live by the sea and have a truly top notch school system. It would take parental involvement that does not exist right now. Too many people think everything is fine. It is not fine.
BSM January 15, 2014 at 01:52 PM
My children are grown so I am not completely up to speed on the studies cited, but as a former teacher I can state from experience that smaller classes are always better for the child.....I fail to see how people who purport to be educators can support playing musical schools to accommodate the administrative staff.....Maybe we need fewer administrators, saving that same amount and leaving the configuration of the district as is.
Penquin January 15, 2014 at 03:40 PM
It would be so stressful for elementary children to change schools every two years. Don't do this. Have some common sense. Want to save 1.6$$? Here you go.... 1. Get rid of Tagney and the two highest paid cops $1.3MM+fringes 2. Do Not allow Free Lifetime Health Benefits (millions in future costs) 4. Audit current and future borrowing by the city. 1.6MM is a drop in the bucket in this city considering the reckless spending and wasting of $$
Noway Jose January 15, 2014 at 03:50 PM
BSM, I'm glad you said "purported to be educators." That sums up the superintendent of schools. lambchop, The cuts you are proposing have nothing to do with the school district. But it is correct that the cuts the Board are considering are a "drop in the bucket" when considering that for the past five years the Board's revenue side has been $7-$9 million a year more than its expenses. Stop overtaxing and underspending and the manufactured crisis would be averted.
Penquin January 15, 2014 at 04:24 PM
Jose, it just breaks my heart when it comes to all the hard working folks in the school district. They give their all. Teachers, support staff, custodians, etc. are all familiar faces that parents can count on to care about their students. There was another school shooting yesterday in New Mexico. $1.6MM is a joke in this town. Picking on these people for a 2% raise is like Bloomberg's ban on large sodas. Pick on whomever is the easiest target.
Penquin January 19, 2014 at 03:49 AM
Jose, who ever negotiated the police contract should negotiate for you guys. They got a great contract! Greatest respect for everyone involved in education, from cleaners to teachers. Good luck everyone
Jack January 20, 2014 at 07:58 PM
The East School should be closed and sold to a private developer to put the property back on the tax roll. It would be ironic if the MLK center moved to the East school since it would mostly effect all the do gooder type liberals in the public school district who talk all types of integration, affirmative action, diversity and inclusion. But when it comes to their backyard the hypocrite democrat leftist will be up in arms and screaming hell no!
Carly January 20, 2014 at 11:28 PM
CP -- Having lived in Garden City before moving to LB, I can tell you that the district has been cutting costs -- and staff (including teacher positions) -- for a number of years because of declining enrollment. LB's attendance numbers have been artificially inflated by the influx of Island Park residents; it's a fact that LB's school population along with all of Long Island's, has been dwindling. Secondly, the class sizes at the GC high school range between 25-34 students. Heaven forbid that happen in LB. My parochial school grammar classes had 50 kids, and we all learned because there was respect for teachers, pride in success and no excuses allowed. You are absolutely correct that it is a shame that so many LB parents remain uninvolved in their school community. At GC, parents are expected to -- and do -- participate. LB residents' apathy about education -- especially with our ever-increasing tax rates and ever-sinking test scores -- may signal the death knell for our community.


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