Deer Park school district wants to sell property for senior housing

A former school, located at 220 Washington Avenue A former school, located at 220 Washington Avenue in Deer Park, is shown on March 1, 2014. The Deer Park school district plans to sell a former school property to a developer that would build housing for senior living on the 17.7-acre site, district officials said. Photo Credit: Newsday / Ed Betz

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The Deer Park school district plans to sell a former school property for about $6.5 million to a developer who wants to build senior housing on the 17.7-acre site, district officials said.

The district is negotiating with the Engel Burman Group of Garden City for the building and property at 220 Washington Ave., Deer Park. The property, which has not been used as a school for about 25 years, houses town and county programs along with district enrichment activities.

Deer Park is among several Long Island districts that have announced plans to sell property or are considering closing schools in efforts to save money and generate revenue.

Sachem school officials announced last week proposals that included closing two elementary buildings. The Half Hollow Hills school district, also grappling with school closures due to declining enrollment, decided to close two of its seven elementary schools at the end of the school year.

Later this month, Lawrence voters will consider a plan to sell a vacant district building to the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach for $8.5 million. The Seaford and Lindenhurst districts are also considering selling property for senior housing. Island Trees recently scrapped a plan to sell two shuttered schools to a developer of senior housing; a citizens committee there is expected to review options for the property.

Enrollment in Deer Park has decreased by 6 percent to 4,294 this year over the past five years. District officials say the 60,171-square-foot Washington Avenue building costs about $150,000 a year to maintain.

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Any action the district takes will require voter approval through a special referendum.

"Due to budgetary constraints, we have made a concerted effort to look inward to support our district without disrupting students' educational experience," Superintendent Eva J. Demyen said. "We live in an era of declining revenue, declining enrollment and increased mandated costs. What we plan to propose is an effective strategy to provide a sound financial future for our students and residents."

Over the past two years in Deer Park, a Building Utilization Committee of community members, board of education trustees, administrators and professionals analyzed the current uses of three district buildings: Washington, Memorial and Abraham Lincoln. The Memorial School houses the district's publications, buildings and grounds department. Lincoln is vacant and is on the market to be rented.

Each of the properties was appraised by a certified firm and evaluated by the district's architect.

The final recommendation was to sell Washington Avenue. District-run programs will be relocated to other district schools, and administrators will work with outside agencies to help relocate their programs.

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