A referendum proposing $9,749,469 be invested for capital improvements to Elizabeth M. Baker Elementary School and Lakeville Elementary School passed last Tuesday, Dec. 3, by a vote of 560-199 from Great Neck School District residents. The money will be used to add classroom space to both schools in order to compensate for ongoing and projected increases in student population.
“We’re continuing to grow from a student population standpoint, and we’re just trying to make sure we have the infrastructure to give those students the same excellent educational opportunities that we have given students in the past,” Great Neck Public Schools Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance John Powell told the Great Neck Record. “We want to continue to be a high-performing school district, and in order to do that you need to have the support and infrastructure.”
E.M. Baker will receive a new wing that will hold six classrooms, bathrooms, a reconstructed staircase and an elevator and ramp to ensure compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act, in addition to a redesign of the bus loop and parent-drop-off area. Lakeville will receive an addition to its east wing that will add two classrooms.
The additions are projected to take around three years to complete. In the meantime, the district has dealt with its increased student population at E.M. Baker and Lakeville by converting rooms meant to serve as office space or recreation rooms into instructional space.
Powell attributed the referendum’s landslide victory to the quality of the school district and its popularity with residents.
“People are very satisfied with the instructional program that’s being offered in Great Neck,” he said. “When our students leave our school district, they go on to higher education and they do well in life. It is a great setting to both raise and educate your child.”
The building projects themselves will not result in any tax increases for residents living within the school district, since the money for the capital improvements is being drawn the district’s unassigned fund balance accrued from surpluses over the years. However, Powell added that as the additions come into use, and the district has to hire additional teachers and maintenance personnel to service them, the cost of those hires will necessitate a tax bump.
“There will be additional teachers coming in over at Baker, Lakeville maybe not,” Powell said. “There’s no projected increases in taxes for the actual construction, but the operating costs for teachers and additional custodial operations will be a part of us having to fund that.”
Since both E.M. Baker and Lakeville serve the youngest portions of Great Neck’s student body, Powell said the district will weigh proposing similar expansions to its middle schools and high schools in the future as those now-elementary school students get older.
“We’re already looking at that,” Powell said. “We’re going to do a spatial study at the feeder schools from these buildings, look at our existing configurations of classes and see what we have to do to accommodate those students moving up.”
While the district feels the additions will aid their mission to provide quality education to students, Powell added that ultimately the facilities are not what make Great Neck’s schools as renowned as they are.
“We’ve got an excellent teaching staff,” Powell said. “We’ve got an excellent administrative staff, custodial, secretaries, para-professionals and food service, all of them working as a team. There’s always room for improvement, but the public has confidence in what we’re doing.”