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Sale of Woodmere school up for referendum Monday

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 will decide in a referendum Monday if the No. 6 School in Woodmere, closed since 2009, can be sold to Hebrew Academy of Long Beach for $8.5 million.

The referendum includes a stipulation that Hebrew Academy will issue a note for an additional $2.7 million to cover cost savings that the district is expected to see from services it now provides to the academy's students for transportation, special education, and public health and welfare, the academy said.

That note, officials have said, guarantees that the academy will continue to have a substantial enrollment from the Lawrence district, so the district in turn realizes the expected cost savings. If those enrollment numbers are not sustained, the academy would pay cash to cover the savings shortfall.

Voting hours are 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. at these sites in each election district: the No. 2 School in Inwood, Lawrence Middle School in Lawrence, Lawrence High School in Cedarhurst and Atlantic Beach Village Hall.

The 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.

Lance Hirt, board president of the Hebrew Academy of Long Beach, said the district will save more than $700,000 annually in transportation and special-education costs if the sale is approved.

"Those savings will be available for the education of our community's public school children, and that is something we should all feel good about," he said.

"The community will also benefit from our preserving the fields and playgrounds in an area that is otherwise a bit short on open spaces."If the referendum passes, 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 its 6.67 acres is triple that of the academy's current location on Broadway in Long Beach. The academy plans to sell the Long Beach property.

This is the second consecutive year that district voters have been asked to approve the sale of the No. 6 School. 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.

opt trim to end/BHThe fate of the closed school has sparked earlier controversy in the district.

After the school board voted to close it, parents of public school children in the district filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the district, claiming violations of the First Amendment rights of parents and their children. They cited the school board's decision to close and sell the No. 6 School, saying Orthodox Jews on the board and in the community supported the decision, while most other residents did not.

The courts rejected the lawsuit.

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