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Lindenhurst school board forms ‘think tank’ to study fate of building

Edward W. Bower Elementary School, which was closed

Edward W. Bower Elementary School, which was closed in 2011, is shown in this 2015 file photo. Credit: Steve Pfost

The Lindenhurst board of education has approved the formation of a “think tank” to help them decide the fate of a shuttered elementary school.

The board last week voted 8-1 to establish the Think Tank Advisory Committee, which is tasked with gathering input from community stakeholders and making recommendations to the board that are “both fiscally and educationally responsible” regarding the future of Edward W. Bower Elementary School on Montauk Highway.

Bower was closed in 2011 because of the building’s age and declining enrollment. Since then, portions of the building have been rented to several groups, but maintenance costs continue to climb and the building this year is expected to cost the district nearly $206,000.

In an October public referendum, voters roundly rejected a $5.5 million offer by a developer to build senior condos on the site of the school.

The think tank will be made up of three subcommittees: “Sale,” “Repurpose” and “Rental.” Each subcommittee will have two district administrators, two employees and at least four members of the community who will be chosen through an application process. There must be at least two “pro” and two “con” residents on each subcommittee.

“Having community input, in my opinion, is the most responsible thing we can do,” said board member Kevin Garbe, noting the “sometimes volatile, sometimes passionate discussion” that Bower elicits. “I would hope that having these advisory committees . . . will provide for an atmosphere of professional and respectful exchanges.”

Board members said that because there was no exit polling done after the referendum, it’s unclear what motivated residents to vote against the sale.

“I don’t want anyone to think we did not hear the no vote because we did, 100 percent,” said board member Valerie McKenna. The advisory committee, she said, is a “happy medium” where “we all can come together as a community and find the best solution for everyone.”

Board member Edward Murphy Jr. disagreed, voting against the resolution.

“I appreciate the intent of trying to get the community’s input,” he said, noting previous workshops held by the district where many residents expressed their firm opinions. “But I just don’t see how a committee is going to add much.”

According to the resolution, the board will appoint the subcommittee members “from all areas of the community” based on “interest, experience, expertise and concern.” The deadline for applications is 3 p.m. on Jan. 17.

First, there will be a general meeting for all subcommittees on Jan. 24. The advisory committee must file its final report to the board by Feb. 15. The committee will be dissolved 30 days after the board receives the report.

To apply, go to http://nwsdy.li/2iWHiZ5

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