Sandy delays Roosevelt High School's reopening

Construction work on Roosevelt High School. (June 18, Construction work on Roosevelt High School. (June 18, 2012) Photo Credit: Barry Sloan

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Roosevelt High School will not reopen until September because superstorm Sandy delayed completion of a nearly $70 million renovation, district officials said Monday.

It was the second postponement of the high school's reopening in five months. A partial reopening was set for the start of this school year, but officials decided it would be more practical to complete the job and scheduled it for January, upon students' return from the holiday break.

Then Sandy disrupted reconstruction work, officials said. While the renovation has resumed, state inspections and approval will be required before the high school is allowed to reopen. Authorities decided against a midsemester reopening, which would have a ripple effect on students throughout the district who have been temporarily reassigned to other schools.

Roosevelt High's renovation is the final and single most costly piece of the district's $245.5-million reconstruction of its aging schools, including several once regarded as safety hazards. Work at the high school began about a year ago.

During the renovation, high school students have gone to Roosevelt Middle School and other students have been reassigned to three elementary schools. The high school's enrollment is 780.

The overall project is the largest of its type ever undertaken by a Long Island district and is backed financially by New York State, which has run Roosevelt schools since 2002.

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Albany's takeover under special legislation was intended, among other goals, to repair decaying schools and boost dismal test scores. State oversight of the 2,700-student district is scheduled to end June 30.

In another announcement Monday, district officials said elementary students will return in September to Ulysses Byas Elementary School, which middle school students have been attending.

The decision to keep the elementary school open was welcomed by parents, who had feared the building might be leased or sold to an outside agency after middle schoolers returned to their facility.

Monday's twin announcements were the latest in a series of starts and stops that have marked the reconstruction process. The district posted a notice on its website, and students' parents were to be notified of the plans via automated phone calls.

The high school renovation includes state-of-the-art science and technology labs and an expanded and revamped auditorium, as well as a culinary training center, an addition to the library, a renovated gymnasium and a new auxiliary gym.

District officials, in a newsletter to be mailed to Roosevelt residents later this month, explained the decision to postpone the high school's reopening until the start of the 2013-14 school year.

"The state has advised, and our board and administration concur, that it would not be in the best interest of our students to move them to a new building in the middle of the second semester," the newsletter states. "For this reason, the school will open in September 2013."

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The letter is signed by Robert Summerville, the school board president, along with board members Alfred T. Taylor, Wilhelmina Funderburke and Robert Miller. A copy was obtained by Newsday.

In recent months, many parents of the district's elementary school students have complained of congestion at their children's new schools, especially during morning drop-offs and afternoon pickups.

The decision to return elementary students to the Byas school was welcomed by parents who hope it will relieve crowding.

"That's good news -- I'm quite excited," said Brian Clarke, father of a third-grader who was shifted last year from the Byas building to Centennial Elementary School. "It's going to be so much better for the kids, because the congestion [at Centennial] made it a madhouse in the afternoon."

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