TODAY'S PAPER
75° Good Afternoon
75° Good Afternoon
Long IslandSuffolk

Plan to close Jack Abrams school will affect class sizes

This is a view of the Jack Abrams

This is a view of the Jack Abrams Intermediate School in Huntington Station. (July 20, 2010) Photo Credit: Newsday / John Paraskevas

The plan to close the Jack Abrams Intermediate School to students and reconfigure the district will result in larger class sizes, the Huntington superintendent said Tuesday.

John Finello said the plan will include a staff reorganization and will alter how art is taught. In addition, each primary school will have to find space for instrument instruction, Finello said.

"Our goal is to provide a program similar to one that has existed in our buildings, and we are confident we will be able to provide that," Finello said.

The closing of Jack Abrams sends all 5th- and 6th-graders to Woodhull Intermediate School. In addition, Monday's 4-3 vote at an emergency school board meeting sends 4th-graders to the district's four primary schools.

The vote came after a 16-year-old girl was shot July 11 near a parking lot at Jack Abrams, which was to have been a sixth-grade center in the fall.

Finello said there would be larger class sizes at the four primary schools. School board president Bill Dwyer said the primary schools now would have 80 to 100 additional students.

He said there will be no dedicated rooms for art in some of the primary schools so students will have "art on a cart," where the day's lesson is loaded onto a cart and travels to each class. Because students in the district begin instrument instruction in the 4th grade, space for that will now have to be carved out in the primary schools' buildings.

Dwyer also said Jack Abrams Principal Mary Stokkers is likely to become the principal at Woodhull, and current Woodhull Principal Jarrett Stein will move to Huntington High School.

Jack Abrams teachers will be distributed to other district schools, with some assisting the larger-size classes. Dwyer said contingency budget positions are expected to be used to hire additional teachers.

Finello said he had been asked by Dwyer after the shooting to come up with some alternatives in the event the April decision to create the sixth-grade center was overturned.

The Jack Abrams School campus will be used for administration, tutoring, adult education and possibly, eventually, an alternative high school, Dwyer and Finello said.

Both Finello and Dwyer said an alternative high school would need state approval before it could be implemented and is not likely to happen for the next school year.

The vote to close Jack Abrams to students came after a tense meeting of the board at Jack Abrams and without a public comment session. Dwyer said the district policy manual allows the board the discretion during special meetings to decide what's on the agenda.

Board members Elizabeth Black, John Paci, Richard McGrath - all of whom voted against the sixth-grade center - voted for the new reconfiguration. Dwyer, who had been the swing vote for the April vote, changed his mind and sided with them.

Black said she did not think the school or the neighborhood was safe and it was time for the board to act. "The board's action will not only achieve the primary goal of keeping the children safe," Black said, "but it will also assist in the long overdue revitalization of Huntington Station."

Board members Emily Rogan, Chris Bene and Kimberly Brown voted against the reconfiguration.

Rogan said she does not think closing Jack Abrams to students is a good thing, but she is looking ahead. "I will always be part of moving forward and trying to work for the best interest of the community and the best interest of the school district, but I think there is going to be a lot of healing that is going to have to take place," she said.

Latest Long Island News