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Feb 8, 2012 12:35 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Quogue Residents Say They Support Land Purchase

Feb 8, 2012 1:04 PM

Most of the estimated 65 people present at Tuesday night’s public hearing said they will support the East Quogue School District’s proposed purchase of land next door to the elementary school, which officials say is needed to accommodate future expansion, and commended the Board of Education for having the foresight to plan ahead.

Registered voters in the district will head to the polls on Tuesday, February 28, to decide whether or not school administrators can spend $400,000 already set aside in this year’s budget to buy the three-quarter-acre property at 10 Central Avenue, which currently features a house. If approved, the district will spend $250,000 on the land and set aside $150,000 to cover the demolition of the building.

If the purchase is approved by taxpayers, district officials have stated that they have no immediate plans to expand the elementary school at 6 Central Avenue. Instead, they said more immediate plans could be to install a portable structure on the property and relocate the district’s administrative offices from the school, freeing up more space for classrooms. Other options include eventually expanding the school or possibly reselling the land, which district officials said they are getting for below market value, down the road for a profit.

All future projects, however, cannot be completed without a separate referendum.

“The school that we all went to when we were kids is different from the school that we have today,” said School Board member Joseph Tsaveras at the beginning of the hearing. “We are limited in the space that we currently have. This is not just a piece of land, but it is an opportunity down the road that we may never see again.”

Parent Don Bouchard, a resident of East Quogue for more than 30 years who has two children currently attending the elementary school, said it would be prudent of the district to purchase the property in anticipation of future growth in enrollment. He noted that while expansion might not be necessary now, it could be required in the future and he commended officials for keeping their options open.

Mr. Bouchard also said he would hate to see the district have to sacrifice more of its recreational field space toward the rear of the school, which it had to do in order to accommodate a $7 million expansion project that was completed 13 years earlier.

“With the school expansion in 1999, the school field area was significantly decreased,” Mr. Bouchard said. “If this school were ever to need to expand in the future and did not benefit from that additional land, where would we put that expansion? Reduction of more field space, that is where it would go—reduction of recreational space for our children.”

Other hamlet residents, like Vito Gentile, said they will support the purchase, but also offered words of caution to board members about developing the land too quickly.

“Buying this property is not only the right decision, it is a very wise decision,” Mr. Gentile said. “But may I caution you: Murphy’s Law dictates that the more space you have, the more junk you accumulate. So, hopefully, when the property becomes yours, you don’t jump at the first expansion idea that comes to your collective minds.”

Karen Smith of East Quogue, whose daughter graduated from the elementary school 10 years ago, said she is open to the idea of buying the land to accommodate future expansion if the district can show a need for one. She added that she will remain uncommitted on the proposal until the district is able to prove that the land is needed.

“I see all of the cuts happening in schools, and I think it is unfair,” Ms. Smith said. “I like to see the idea of expanding the school, but I want to see the numbers before I vote for something. I need to see the numbers.”

The district currently boasts 432 students, down from 451 students in 2009, according to school officials. But they warned this week that the drop could only be a temporary one, meaning that they could find themselves hard-pressed for space very soon.

There has also been confusion in recent weeks regarding the capacity of the current school building. Both school and New York State Department of Education officials have been unable to confirm what the school’s total capacity is—and district officials made no mention of that situation during Tuesday’s hearing and no one from the public raised it as an issue.

When asked about his school’s capacity after the nearly 40-minute hearing, East Quogue Superintendent Les Black said he still could not offer a figure.

“It is very hard to put a number on occupancy,” Mr. Black said. “It’s not just how many kids fit in a room—that’s what it is not. The only two figures that the state will give you is a code number, which is simply counting the number of classrooms, and the other thing the state does is count the number of classrooms for aid purposes only.”

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I feel the BOE did a super job presenting and explaining in there opening statements most of the questions the public needed answering. Good thinking. Carol Combes
By Carol (109), East Quogue on Feb 9, 12 9:11 AM
2 members liked this comment
What about the student capacity of the school?
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Feb 9, 12 3:43 PM
BOE meeting was a sham. How many of the employees at the school even reside in our district? They are most of the teachers that were sitting there along with the two administrators and cannot vote on the proposal. Those who oppose the purchase are in the minority if one goes by those who were in attendance. The process is rigged in favor of the proponents.
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Feb 12, 12 7:27 AM
When Al A steps into the room, you just go in the opposite direction.

The board did a great job and I look forward to an ever improving district much to our children's benefit...
By BIGjimbo12 (201), East Quogue on Feb 12, 12 10:47 PM
Still don't have the student capacity of the school, guess its just another cover up.
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Feb 13, 12 10:05 AM
Call the Principal Robert Long at 653-5210. He will answer your question or questions. Carol Combes
By Carol (109), East Quogue on Feb 13, 12 6:04 PM
I saw a lot of taxpayers at the meeting that support the purchase. Crusader seems upset that so few support her view. I would even say she is paranoid.
By Whb46 (3), East quogue on Feb 16, 12 9:05 PM
Whb46, Alleging someone is paranoid is a personal attack. I see you reside in WHB which is outside of the East Quogue UFSD. Are you one of the employees who do not reside in the district and were at the the BOE meeting? I was not there, out of town on business. I find it suspect that a question of student capacity was not addressed. Transparency is lacking within the district. Opposing views are what our country was founded upon, 1st Amendment Rights still exist. Thank you for your concern ...more
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Feb 17, 12 7:06 AM
I reside in East Quogue. So you see nothing. Look at the post location. I do not work for the school district. I do have a lot of respect for the school employees. The meeting had more taxpayers that were in support of the purchase. I agree everyone has a right to their own views. I have an issue with false information. Letters to the press had stated false information.
By Whb46 (3), East quogue on Feb 20, 12 10:02 PM
Question of student capacity has not been answered, by the Board of Education, the Principal and the Superintendent. Why not provide full disclosure if there is nothing to hide? Not providing answers validate the concerns many residents have.
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Feb 21, 12 8:11 AM
The question has been addressed on a number of occasions. I think you are missing the point. Shouldn't we be in favor of quality education ? It is obvious that if classes are overcrowded the quality of the education provided will be compromised.
By BrownEyes (3), East Quogue on Feb 23, 12 6:48 PM
Perhaps, you are missing the point. If each class can hold 30 or more students and we now have between 14 and 19 students how is that overcrowded? The more classrooms, the more staff and the more money it will cost the taxpayers. It is that simple.
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Feb 25, 12 9:45 AM