Suffolk police patrol as buses line up at Jack Abrams...

Suffolk police patrol as buses line up at Jack Abrams Intermediate School for dismissal. (March 24, 2010) Credit: Charles Eckert

Huntington Town board member Glenda Jackson hosted a meeting last night at Jack Abrams Intermediate School to encourage residents to come up with solutions to stem violence in the neighborhood.

In a wide-ranging discussion, about 70 parents and residents questioned representatives from the Suffolk police and Huntington's town attorney, code enforcement and youth bureau offices.

The meeting, a month after shots were fired during school hours just two blocks away from Jack Abrams, also addressed simmering tensions from parents over safety issues near the Lowndes Avenue campus.

"We all agree that the violence has to stop and we need a solution," Jackson said. "And we all may not agree on how to get there but we can try to come up with some solutions." Some of the ideas pitched by residents included the creation of a Neighborhood Watch in Huntington Station, and increased youth programs administered by the town or a local church.

One parent, Jennifer Hebert, proposed the town find a volunteer grant writer to seek state and federal funding for youth programs. She said the growing division in the community over school safety is disappointing.

"It hurts me to hear so many people are divided," she said. "I'd like to see the community come together."

Another parent, Peggy Davis, who came to the meeting with her granddaughter and son, called for more communication among residents and institutions to combat the gang problem in Huntington Station.

"It was important for us to be here because we live across the street," said Davis, referring to the Whitman Village complex near Jack Abrams. "I understand parents who come from other areas of the town are upset but the violence affects all of us. I feel for them but I feel for myself, too."

At a March school board meeting, district superintendent John Finello said he did not believe the neighborhood was safe, prompting the school board to ask district administrators to explore options for relocating students.

Parents were divided between keeping students at the school while the neighborhood is cleaned up and others who wanted students moved immediately, preferably to the town hall building, which at one time served as a school. Last week, the school board approved a plan to turn Jack Abrams into a districtwide sixth-grade center and use the district's other intermediate school, Woodhull, as a building for fourth- and fifth-grade classes starting in September.

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