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Hoping to see a bond approved, Copiague school officials conduct tours of their buildings

Cynthia Florio, principal of Susan E. Wiley Elementary

Cynthia Florio, principal of Susan E. Wiley Elementary School in Copiague, center, with district Superintendent Kathleen Bannon, right, speaks to community members about the district's upcoming bond proposal vote while giving a tour of areas needing improvement on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2015. Photo Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Copiague school officials this week began a series of building tours intended to show voters the need for $58 million in improvement bonds that will be put up for a referendum Nov. 23.

The first tour, at Susan E. Wiley Elementary School on Wednesday night, took about a dozen parents and guardians through the cheerily decorated but windowless rooms used for counseling and academic support. Two were barely big enough to hold desks. The nurse's office was almost as cramped. The drop ceilings showed water spots.

Wiley, which was built in 1958 to educate 649 students, now educates 798.

"That's just inadequate," said Diane Powell, whose daughter attends fourth grade at the school. "It looks pretty sad," said Nancy Scrivano, a homemaker whose daughter also attends the school.

The list of proposed repairs at Wiley includes new plumbing, new security vestibules and renovated classrooms. Improvements elsewhere in the district could ease enrollment pressure at Wiley: Deauville Gardens East and West elementary schools would expand, letting those schools accept more incoming kindergartners and bringing class size at Wiley down from 28-30 children to 25 or 26.

At Wiley, young musicians could finally move off the stage in the cafeteria, where they practice during lunch hours, to a dedicated space. Technology improvements would include wiring for higher Internet bandwidth and LED lighting.

Tours like the one Wednesday night are part of an extended public relations campaign mounted by officials in this working class hamlet of 22,155 that in recent months has included Web and newsletter updates, postcards, fliers and a video. Presentations like the one given before Wednesday night's tour were translated simultaneously for Spanish-speaking parents.

School officials want to avoid a repeat of last year, when just 1,077 voters turned out and rejected a $69.4 million bond proposal.

They have retooled the project, shaving costs and offering two smaller bond proposals instead of one.

Residents will vote on a $42.9 million proposal for repairs deemed most urgent; a $15.1 million proposal for repairs slightly less urgent can pass only if the first proposal passes. State building aid would return about three quarters of the total cost, leaving residents responsible for $16.6 million of the total.

"It's like a 75 percent off sale," Superintendent Kathleen Bannon told the crowd Wednesday night.

Passing both bonds would raise taxes for the average homeowner by $178.19 a year, officials said.

Many of those who attended the tour said the cost was worth it.

"More people should have showed up; it becomes a little more personal," said Sandra Campbell, a medical assistant whose granddaughter attends third grade at the school. "We raise taxes for a whole lot of things, and this is necessary."

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