“I know it’s obvious but I think it’s worth stating,” Dr. Michael Nagler said, “we are not done with reconfiguration.”
The Mineola school superintendent offered that statement at the recent meeting of the at the on March 29, noting how when the district will close in September, a new group of children will move into , and .
“So those three buildings as they currently exist, for argument’s sake, will no longer exist the way they currently do,” he said.
Whereas the and high school are currently dealing with the issues already, the superintendent said that the elementary buildings will expect to face their own challenges next year.
“We don’t know what those schools are going to look and feel like with the new grade configurations and the new pupil movement, whether it’s arrival, dismissal, going to lunch, going to playground; all of those things are new and we try to plan as best we can that they’re going to be smooth and without problems but they’re going to be issues that come up and we’re going to handle them as they come up,” he said.
Referring to the discussion on March 15 about the , the superintendent presented a variety of updated options taking into account ideas heard at the previous meeting including price points, use of the blacktop in the rear of the school, changing the direction of Jackson Avenue, not taking away green space as well as what he called the “Barnett scenario” proposed by resident Artie Barnett about having the loop come off of Marcellus as opposed to Sayville.
“Then there are presenting problems at Jackson that need to get corrected,” Dr. Nagler said. “When you need to dismiss 450 kids and 300 and some-odd are getting on a bus, that’s a big deal. We want to get them on busses quickly, safely and account for all different things like rain and snow,” and that the current practice is “not good, that I am sure of.”
Currently children are walked down to corner of Jackson and Marcellus, cross the street and load onto busses on the south side of Jackson due to the buss’ doors being there. Next year the district anticipates 75 percent of the 433 students in the building to be eligible for busses. About 90 percent of those eligible to ride the bus are estimated to ride them this year. According to director of transportation Bill Gillberg it takes 7-12 minutes to load 8 busses at Jackson at dismissal.
“If we had snow this year, we would have had major problems,” Dr. Nagler said. “We know it’s not working the way it is,that’s why we’re talking about this.”
The superintendent presented four different scenarios at the meeting:
Option one keeps arrivals the same with busses coming down Marcellus, lining up on the corner and letting students off. At dismissal only, the busses would line around the back.
“It gives three access points for children to leave,” Dr. Nagler said, noting that students can line up by the main office, in the middle corridor and the cafeteria. “It can be a daily routine for kids, they know where they line up, they leave a certain exit, they get on their bus. You cannot mimic that on the street.”
The distance students travel is also shorter then they would walk going across Jackson Avenue. He also heard concerns about buses discharging in back when students might be playing before school. The cost for only for the piece of road from the back to the street would cost $25,000.
An alternate would have the walkers in front of the building with the busses on Marcellus – which is already a bus zone – but would lose the garage structure as the loop would curve out to Marcellus allowing buses to go in either direction and preserving the corner of Jackson and Marcellus so walkers are not crossing a driveway most of the time. The cost of the loop is $48,012.
Option three is similar to a 2010 proposal with and moves the arrival off the street and into a loop in the southeast corner with parking spaces coming from Marcellus and onto Jackson Avenue. Vehicles would not be allowed to reverse or back up in this loop and the back of the building would be only for dismissal.
The superintendent is also intent on ending the comingling of children and cars, something he feels “very strongly about,” saying that students are using the door at the back of the cafeteria to exit and walk around to get to blacktop. “There’s no flow of traffic when you have kids going down to lunch.”
The current roll gate in the middle of the rear lot is proposed to be moved to other side of the door, letting students have about 25 parking spots worth of space. Those spots would then be moved to a proposed entrance on Sayville.
Dr. Nagler was of the opinion that “it’s a much better plan for parking. Kids should not cross where cars go” and if nothing else was done “you should do this,”noting the cost for the additional 30 spaces would be $77,000.
The superintendent doesn’t believe turning the one-way street around will solve the congestion problem.
“Right now you have a lot of traffic from ,” he said. “It’s already a congested area. To now change the street for all of that traffic to only go west, to make a right on Sayville, I don’t think the people on Emory are going to be happy, I don’t think the people on Andrews are going to be happy. I think it chokes the whole flow. We’re trying to control the dismissal; the flow of where kids go.”
The superintendent theorized that the village would also ask the district to conduct a traffic study as to designating the whole north side of the street as busses only. Shoveling snow would also be a problem because “when a plow comes down they’re going to push it against the curb,” he said. “Now you have to be very specific if you have 8 buses lined up there exactly where their doors are going to be because you now have to cut a path from the packed snow that the plow just left, got to find the curb, have to go over the grass... then get over the sidewalk and get onto the other grass. It poses problems.”
He added that “we may not like the volume that Chaminade brings, but it’s a problem the village has been dealing with is going to continue to deal with and when they look at our petition to change the direction of the street, they’ll absolutely have to look at the ramifications of the other buildings.”
“It’s not that I don’t think that that’s a good idea, I don’t know that I want to spend a quarter of a million dollars when we haven’t really had a problem with it in, as somebody told me last week, 72 years,” trustee John McGrath said on changing the direction of the street.
“That doesn’t make it right, nor does it make it safe, nor does it make it any better if a kid gets hit by a car,” Dr. Nagler responded.
“If you change the direction of that street, we are now forcing just about all traffic into an already saturated neighborhood of cars and busses,” board president Christine Napolitano said. “it’s not just 8 busses, it’s every vehicle that comes down Sayville. I can’t see how the residents are going to say ‘no problem’.”
The superintendent responded by saying that “the village controls that destiny. If you would like to continue to debate whether or not we should approach the village, that’s secondary to whether or not you want to put money in the budget.”
If the board intends to do any work, money must be placed in the budget from the undesignated fund balance into the capital line. If the funds are not spent, the money would go back to surplus.
“But if we don’t put it in our budget for next year we’re going to miss the opportunity to do work,” Dr. Nagler said.
Jackson Avenue is in need of other work, specifically windows and doors which will reportedly cost about $3 million, an amount which will take the district 2-3 years to save.
“We’re not ignoring that; it’s just a matter of practicality,” Dr. Nagler said on building the capital reserve. “We plan on doing that and tacking the projects as they come.”