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Lawrence district voters OK school's sale to academy

An exterior of the Number Six School at

An exterior of the Number Six School at 523 Church Ave. in Woodmere. This school was closed in 2009. Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

Voters in the Lawrence school district approved a referendum Monday to sell the shuttered No. 6 School in Woodmere to the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach for $8.5 million.

In the 1,856-461 decision, voters also approved a referendum stipulation that Hebrew Academy will issue a note for an additional $2.7 million to cover cost savings the district is expected to see from services it provides to the academy's students for transportation, special education and public health and welfare, school officials said.

The No. 6 School, closed since 2009, "has been serving the children in our community for over 50 years and today's vote allows for the continuation of that service," Lance Hirt, board president of the Hebrew Academy, said in a written statement.

"This is the right transaction for District 15 [Lawrence], this is the right transaction for the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach and this is the right transaction for all of our new neighbors who will continue to enjoy the fields, playgrounds and open spaces," he said.

Hirt has said the note guarantees the academy will "maintain a very significant enrollment of District 15 students for a long period of time -- enough to provide the district with savings worth more than the value of our note."

The Lawrence Board of Education voted in March 2009 to close the school, the district's newest and largest elementary facility, because of declining enrollment. The district has about 2,800 students.

Superintendent Gary Schall has said the sale was "the best deal on the table."

"Clearly, the community has spoken and we welcome our new neighbors, the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach, to Lawrence," he said after the vote.

This is the second consecutive year that district voters have been asked to approve sale of the school, which sits on 6.67 acres. Voters last year overwhelmingly rejected its proposed sale for $12.5 million to Simone Healthcare Development Group, which planned to convert the 80,170-square-foot building into medical offices.

Hirt said the district will save more than $700,000 a year in transportation and special-education costs.

He estimated that the Lawrence district spends more than $1,000 yearly for each student bused to the academy's elementary school in Long Beach, which has grades 1 through 8.

Ninety-five percent of the 800 students at that school are from the Woodmere-Five Towns area.

Hebrew Academy officials said they plan to seek approval from Hempstead Town to renovate the school, which could open to 800 academy students in about two years.

The No. 6 School is one-third bigger and has triple the acreage of the academy's current location on Broadway in Long Beach, which it plans to sell.

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