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Huntington sets vote on $2M construction for school

Residents in the Huntington school district will vote on a referendum Tuesday to spend $2 million in capital reserve funds to build an addition to Woodhull Intermediate School.

The money would be used to add five to seven classrooms, two bathrooms and a hallway.

District officials say the proposal is not related to their decision to close Jack Abrams School and send its fifth- and sixth-graders to Woodhull. Rather, they say they have struggled with space constraints for years because of increased enrollment and the need for increased academic intervention services and small group instructional spaces.

Enrollment in grades K-12 increased from 4,115 in October 2000 to a projected 4,450 this coming year.

"Regardless of where we are going to go short-term or long-term," school board president Bill Dwyer said Wednesday, "we were fairly confident we would need more room at Woodhull because it was going to be part of the equation."

Some residents say plans to add space at Woodhull, which will house 694 students this fall up from 519 last year, are out of sync with district needs with Abrams now closed to students. That vote also added fourth grade to the district's four primary schools, previously K-3. Those schools are expected to add 82 to 96 students.

"Right now our primary schools, which were already overcrowded, they're now stuffed to the gills," said Amy Giles, of Huntington Station with two children, one in primary school and the other at Woodhull. "Since Jack Abrams has been closed our needs have changed. . . . They should stop, look at the whole picture and then start over."

If the referendum is approved, construction would take about two years. Officials say the addition would not cost taxpayers since the money is already in the capital reserve fund. The $2 million represents the entire amount in the reserve fund, said Assistant Superintendent David Grackin.

In recent months the district has been in turmoil following violence near Abrams in Huntington Station. The shooting of a teen near the campus in July led to the school board's decision to close the school. In April, the board voted to use the building as a districtwide sixth-grade center and send fourth- and fifth-graders to Woodhull. The cost for leasing three modular classrooms to accommodate the added students at Woodhull was included in the 2010-11 budget. The modulars should be in place by the end of the year, Grackin said.

In June, the board created a committee to find a long-term solution to the space issue with plans to present to residents by year's end a bond to increase space throughout the district. The committee has whittled options to about six, but Dwyer said it likely will take longer to present a bond to voters.

"We need to relax our scheduling parameters in getting a bond referendum up because we need to figure out what we want to do with the Abrams building in the long-term plan."

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