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Feb 21, 2012 4:15 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Quogue Land Referendum Set For February 28

Feb 21, 2012 4:29 PM

The East Quogue School District will be holding its long-awaited vote next week to determine if it can purchase a piece of property next door to the Central Avenue elementary school to accommodate future expansion—if it is ever needed.

The vote, which is scheduled to run from 7 a.m. until 9 p.m. on Tuesday, February 28, at the school, will decide whether or not school administrators can spend $400,000 that’s already set aside in this year’s $22 million budget to buy the nearly three-quarter acre property at 10 Central Avenue, which features a house. If approved, the district will spend $250,000 on the land and set aside $150,000 to cover the cost of demolishing the house. Town records state that the property is owned by the estate of Louise Oliver.

“It is up to the people. We have brought it to them and it is their decision, that is our stance,” said Board of Education President Mario Cardaci when reached this week. “If it is yes, we will go ahead, if it is no, then it is no.”

The proposal has sparked controversy in the community over the past few months, with some taxpayers questioning if there is a need for an expansion project. Others are demanding to know why the district is holding the vote in the middle of winter, when many of the hamlet’s older residents are visiting their summer homes.

Other hamlet residents, meanwhile, said they support the purchase, explaining that they think it is a good move for the district to plan for the future.

“I personally find that it is a win-win for the school district,” said East Quogue resident Don Bouchard. “The property is below market value and, as far as the community goes, I think there were a few voices that spoke loudly against this but most of the people I have spoken to are for purchasing the property.”

The main sticking point for some residents is that school officials have not yet shown, in their opinion, that there is a need for expansion. School Superintendent Les Black and School Principal Robert Long have, to date, declined to share the maximum capacity of the elementary school.

“It is very hard to put a number on occupancy,” Mr. Black said following an informational meeting held at the school on February 7 regarding the purchase. “It’s not just how many kids fit in a room—that’s what it is not. The only two figures that the state [education department] 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.”

Mr. Black could not be reached this week as it is February break.

According to a chart distributed at the informational meeting, the elementary school features 38 teaching spaces, not including the gymnasium or library. That figure includes 23 classrooms, which are broken down by grade, and three laboratories. For the 2011-12 school year, the school has four kindergarten classes, three classes each for grades 1 through 5, and four classes for sixth-graders.

Currently, the school’s student enrollment stands 434 students, down from 451 students in 2009, when a possible expansion was first discussed.

District officials have explained that while expansion might not be needed right now, it could be needed in the future. In a letter sent home to district residents, Mr. Black said another option could be to relocate the school’s administrative offices from the school and into portable trailers that could be moved onto the adjacent property. Another option, according to school officials, is for the district to eventually sell the land for a profit if expansion is not needed.

In a letter dated January 19 and mailed to community members, Mr. Black outlined the fiscal ramifications of the purchase in terms of tax dollars for residents. In that letter, Mr. Black writes that the money for the purchase is already set aside in this year’s budget. If they reject the purchase, a taxpayer whose home is assessed at $500,000 would see a reduced tax rate next year of approximately $125, Mr. Black wrote.

Even though it is not clear if expansion is needed, school officials maintain that buying the land is still a good idea.

“This is an opportunity and we have to put it out there for people to decide what they want,” Mr. Cardaci said. “That is what this is all about.”

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Not much to think about....you want it vote yes otherwise vote no.
By BrownEyes (3), East Quogue on Feb 21, 12 6:42 PM
1 member liked this comment
I'm still not sure why the issue of capacity is a topic. As has been stated, there is no such thing as "educational capacity". If a school district wanted to squeeze 50 students into a room, it is the locally elected Board of Education's decision to do so. For those continuing to try and create a story out of nothing, you are searching for an answer that doesn't exist. There are occupancy numbers in the gymnasium and cafetorium. That's it! The District receives aid based upon building units ...more
By Eqeducation (8), East Quogue on Feb 22, 12 12:58 PM
I agree with Eqeducation. There are maximum room capacities calculated on health criteria but not on educational ones. Generally speaking, the lower the student/teacher ration, the more effective the tutelage. Maximum capacity of a classroom according to the fire marshall might be a hundred persons but that doesn't mean a hundred students SHOULD be crammed into it.

At the moment, there is no pressure for expansion, the student census having declined in recent years. Proactivity is the ...more
By highhatsize (4217), East Quogue on Feb 22, 12 2:23 PM
1 member liked this comment
This is a great opportunity for the district. This opportunity should not be missed. We have the ability to make a great school even better.
By rightwing (18), East Quogue on Feb 22, 12 7:06 PM
1 member liked this comment
This question is not about the property purchase, but rather something I observed today at the East Quogue Elementary School. Perhaps one of the posters can help me. I saw a private contractor raking and cleaning up the grounds inside the school property along Lewis Road. We employ maintenance personnel at the school, why are we paying for an outside contractor to do this?
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Feb 23, 12 3:33 PM
The only question is do you want to buy the land or not. That is the issue we are voting on. I fell we should.
By Whb46 (3), East quogue on Feb 24, 12 7:03 AM
To Whb46, as stated, my question had nothing to do with the vote. Nevertheless, I had a question that I thought perhaps someone might answer for me. Some of the posters here appear to be knowledgeable about the EQ School. Silly me, asking questions about the school are taboo.
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Feb 24, 12 9:54 AM