Kevin Shapiro, with his daughter Lila, 10, a fourth-grader, is...

Kevin Shapiro, with his daughter Lila, 10, a fourth-grader, is against the possible closure of John Pearl Elementary School. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

A recent proposal by Connetquot school officials to consider closing John Pearl Elementary School in Bohemia has angered some parents, who questioned why the district would consider such a move during a global health crisis.

The possible closure was discussed at a virtual Board of Education meeting, but no vote was taken. The board voted to eliminate positions and take other steps to make up for a $3.5 million deficit in the projected 2020-21 budget. 

The board voted to cut two assistant superintendent positions, the director of guidance, two assistant principals and a high school dean of students, Superintendent Lynda Adams said. The district still needs to cut about $500,000, and "that does not account for the potential loss in revenue when the governor's next budget run occurs on April 30," she said in a statement. The district's proposed budget is more than $203 million.

The board discussed the possible closure of John Pearl at its April 16 meeting, which was shown on YouTube. The Suffolk County district, which enrolls about 5,500 students, has seven elementary schools. John Pearl serves 207 students in grades K-5. Overall enrollment has been on a decline.

Adams said the board requested preliminary information regarding staffing and savings if the school were closed. 

Parent Kevin Shapiro, whose daughter is in the fourth grade, said the potential closure "came out of nowhere." A petition to keep the school open has about 2,300 signatures.

"Especially in a time of chaos and uncertainty, it would seem to me that familiarity and family would be the best things to soothe our kids' jangled nerves," he said. "It is still unclear what the benefits are going to be. I feel it is ill-timed and unkind."

Adams said the board is considering hiring armed guards, but some parents said funds would be better spent elsewhere.

In a note sent Tuesday, board members said it may become "fiscally responsible" to close the school in the future and that it would not be a "tragedy."

"A child switching schools is an obstacle, not a tragedy," the letter read.

Parents are concerned that rezoning schools could mean larger classes, which would impact social distancing when classes resume. Laura Spelman, an ICU nurse who has three sons at the school, worries about student safety.

"We don't know what it is going to look like when we go back," she said.

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