Future Study Q&A
1. What is the Future Study?
The Northport-East Northport Board of Education implemented a comprehensive planning process to identify possible options to provide a “roadmap” for future decisions about the District’s PreK-12 instructional program, called “Future Study.” In June of 2019, the Board of Education commissioned The SES Study Team, LLC to prepare a study to help the Board, leadership team, and community analyze possible options to organize and deliver the Northport-East Northport program in the future. The purpose of Future Study is to determine if there are options that might provide cost-effective ways or patterns to organize how the PreK-12 program is implemented/delivered over the next three years, while keeping the integrity of our academic, co-currircular and extracurricular program intact.
The full and final study including potential scenarios can be found by clicking here.
2. What were the factors that impacted the scenario options?
The main priority of the District is to maintain the diversity and excellence of education programs delivered with the appropriate class size goals and guided by the program vision. All of the options were designed to address the role of the neighborhood schools as practicable given the enrollment projections and the building resources available to the District.
The key influencing factors guiding the potential scenarios included but were not limited to:
- Tax levy affordability by local property taxpayers
- Resolution of the outstanding LIPA tax case
- Capital items and work needing to be addressed at the buildings over the next five years
- Projected enrollment decline
- Excess school building pupil capacity
- Likely continued above inflation rate cost for retirement, health insurance and utility costs
- Likely 20% reduction in state aid
When choosing a suggested scenario or version of a suggested scenario, the Board of Education and District administration will be taking into account each of the above factors while keeping the main priority in mind.
3. What is the Community Advisory Committee? Who was on this committee and how was it chosen?
An integral part of the comprehensive planning process commissioned by the Board of Education was the appointment of a Community Advisory Committee, composed of residents who applied to help with the study. The Committee is a cross-section of the community including parents of current students and preschool-age children, retirees, residents without children and civic leaders, in addition to representative resident school staff members. The role of this group was to act as a steering committee to help the SES Study Team gain a deeper understanding of community goals and priorities.
Out of over 140 applicants for the Committee, approximately 40 were ultimately chosen as a representation of the district. Applications were mailed to residents throughout the district, and each member needed to meet the criteria set forth by the district and SES Study Team, as well as be open to both voicing their opinions publicly and be able to work with fellow committee members to form a consensus.
4. Why is Future Study being implemented?
While there are a wide variety of factors that influenced the decision to implement Future Study, two of the most impactful include declining enrollment and the pending LIPA settlement.
Since 2014, enrollment in the district has declined significantly, leaving many of our buildings with increasing inefficiencies. More specifically, enrollment decreased from 5,748 pupils in 2014-15 to 5,138 in the 2019-2020 school year. The decrease of 610 pupils equates to a -10.6% change over the past six years.
Additionally, the LIPA suit settlement, agreed upon by the Town of Huntington Board in September 2020, will result in a reduction of LIPA’s tax payments to the District from $86 million to $46 million over the next seven years. This settlement will result in an increase in property tax payments for community home and business owners. The Future Study will help to mitigate this increase.
Given the reality of the demographic and financial factors listed above, the Community Advisory suggested the guiding principle for the Future Study is that it address the factors and provide options that “maintain the diversity, excellence of education programs to help students at all levels” (p.60 of Study).
5. How will this impact my child?
While the scenario chosen by the Board of Education will most likely result in at least one building closure, each scenario will have a different impact on students. Lessening the direct impact on students as much as possible was a major contributing factor to this study and will play a significant role in the Board’s final decision. We realize that changes such as a building closure or school transitions are not easy; however, we believe that these changes are for the benefit of the district as a whole and will ultimately be what’s best for our community.
Our students are resilient and we are confident that they will adapt to whatever changes are ultimately put in place. It is important to remember that these temporary growing pains are for the long term benefit of the district and community. This is not a short term solution, but rather a long term opportunity to make our district more programmatically and financially efficient and ultimately, stronger.
6. What option will the district be moving forward with?
No decisions regarding the final scenario have been made at this time. The Board of Education may choose from the proposed scenarios within the study, an adjusted version of a proposed scenario, or an entirely different scenario. A decision is expected to be made by November 19th, 2020. As soon as a decision is made, community members will be notified.
7. Where can I find the suggested scenarios presented?
Suggested scenarios (scenarios A-E) are within the final Future Study report, found by clicking here. The overview of the scenarios is on pages 69-70. A further explanation and overview of each scenario is then provided on pages 71-90. Each scenario overview includes the rationale for the scenario and both “opportunities” and “challenges”. It is important to note that the Board may choose from a proposed scenario, a modified version of a scenario, or an entirely new scenario altogether. While these are the suggested scenarios based on financial efficiency and maintaining the district education program, the Board does not need to choose from only these scenarios and will also factor community input into their decision. The scenarios are not listed in any priority order or advocacy order.
8. If no buildings are closed and the district remains the status quo, what will the impact be? (Added 10.23.20)
As a result of the LIPA settlement, community member taxes will be raised significantly and alternative changes to the school district, including possible changes to the educational program, may happen if no buildings are closed.
On average, a community member can expect their taxes to raise approximately $515 during the 2021-2022 school year, and a larger increase each subsequent year until 2027. The chart below, previously presented at the July 20, 2020 Board of Education meeting, outlines estimated increases. The district is attempting to mitigate the shift in tax burden through the Future Study.
It is important to remember that if the district does not close any school buildings, that does not mean there will be no impact on the community or our children. Even with increased tax revenue, some district programs may be altered or dissolved if the district is unable to make up for the lost LIPA revenue and building closures are not implemented. A reduction in staff may also be necessary. Maintaining the education program, including low class sizes, was a key factor in the proposed scenarios and was an important part of the Community Advisory Committee’s input.
We implore the community to consider the true impact of not moving forward with implementing the Future Study. While buildings may be saved, the true cost, both in dollars and children’s education, is not to be taken lightly.
9. Why is the closing of one school not presented as an option?
The purpose of the Future Study was to determine the most financially efficient options while maintaining the ideal class sizes and educational program of the district. Given the current and projected enrollment numbers, as well as financial implications such as the LIPA settlement and a likely decrease in State Aid, the proposed scenarios were determined to meet those requirements best. The study presents the data and the options that best fit the goal set forth, however ultimately the decision will be determined by the Board of Education and district administration with input from the Community Advisory Committee and greater community.
10. If buildings close and it is necessary to redraw school boundaries, will my child be impacted even if my school is not closing? (Updated 10.23.20)
Closing buildings means a potential redrawing of school district lines, which may impact the school your child attends, even if they do not attend the school that is closing. Distance to the school building, transportation, pupil capacity, population and number of students being moved will all impact how the district lines are redrawn. One of the many considerations of the scenarios that include the closing of Bellerose and/or Dickisnon include their central location which would likely have the least impact on the population of students at the remaining elementary school buildings.
11. When is Future Study expected to be implemented?
If a decision is finalized by November 19, 2020 as the district anticipates, the impact of Future Study will begin to take place during the 2021-2022 school year. It is incredibly important that as soon as the decision is made, the process of transitioning the district to the new structure is implemented as quickly as possible.
12. Will COVID-19 social distancing guidelines impact the district’s decision?
While we recognize the widespread impact that COVID-19 has had on our world and our district, the hope remains that the virus will eventually no longer play a role in our everyday lives, including with regard to social distancing. The decisions made from Future Study will impact this district for years, if not decades, to come, and this temporary situation will not play a defining role in the decision. However, it is important to note that a building closing does not make it impossible to use later on. ‘Mothballing’, or the maintenance of a closed building to avoid disrepair, would allow the district to continue to utilize a closed building if social distancing guidelines are still in place in the fall of 2021. The district and Board recognizes that we cannot predict what the future holds with regard to COVID-19, and will bear this in mind when choosing a path forward.
13. Who is making the final decision regarding the future of our district’s educational program?
It is crucial that the decision made and scenario chosen is based on both the data presented and knowledge of the District’s priorities and history. The Board of Education and senior administration do have knowledge of the District’s history, its culture, and the preferences held by school District stakeholders. They are ultimately responsible and are most able to determine, with the engagement of the District community, which delivery option, adapted delivery option, or set of options for the future will be best--as judged by local values--to deliver instruction to the children of the District.
14. How can I express my thoughts or comments regarding the Future Study?
The opinions of the community are incredibly important to the district. We encourage all members of the community to email email@example.com with their comments, questions and concerns. Due to the volume of emails, not all emails will be responded to directly; however, please know that we are reviewing every single email and concern.
Superintendent Robert Banzer will also host virtual forums for families to attend, where common questions and concerns will be addressed to the larger community. Additionally, several Board of Education meetings will be held between October and December, where community members may express their opinions and preferences regarding Future Study. Additional meetings, such as Board Workshops, may be held at the discretion of the Board. Dates for these Board meetings will be posted as notices publicly and on the district website.
15. Why is the District moving forward with this process given parents concerns and input? (Added 10.23.20)
It is the role and responsibility of the Board of Education and district administration to provide fiduciary oversight and plan for the future of the district. Not doing so would leave the community and district members in a difficult position financially, which ultimately impacts the ability of the district to provide the students with the best experience possible. We firmly believe that the careful analysis of efficiencies, both financially and programmatically, are in the best interest of both our students and the community as a whole.
16. Is the increasing number of families exiting the city and moving to Long Island playing a role in this study? Was that potential increase factored into the projected enrollment? (Added 10.23.20)
The district recognizes that in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, Suffolk County has seen an increase in interest from city residents. The Future Study incorporated projections at the alternative high range, and given our current numbers, our enrollment is below what was projected. With this in mind, we would continue to have available space should enrollment increase. In general, the entire study was built to account for flexibility and the possibility of upward enrollment changes.
Additionally, should a significant increase in enrollment occur, the district may have an opportunity to return to the use of a ‘mothballed’ building to account for such a rise. Exact situations would ultimately depend on the path forward chosen by the Board.
17. If schools are closed when a path forward is chosen, when will the district be notified of new zoning? (Added 10.23.20)
If a decision to close school buildings is made, the district will immediately begin planning for the rezoning so that families may be notified as quickly as possible. Factors that will determine rezoning include which building/buildings is/are closing, how many students live within different geographic areas, bussing needs, grade structures, etc. Because each proposed scenario (or alternate version of a scenario) will have different implications, a firm date for rezoning is not possible to share at this time.
It is important to note that the impact that closing a school building would have on rezoning was a factor in the proposed scenarios. The closing of Bellerose and Dickinson, given their central location, would likely have the least impact on the rezoning of additional schools. This was a major factor for their inclusion in the proposed scenarios.
18. Why can’t we close two elementary schools, have the remaining four schools absorb those students, and leave the middle schools and high school as is? (Added 10.23.20)
It is not possible to fit all of our K-5 student population in four of our existing elementary buildings while meeting our class size guidelines and maintaining extra capacity to account for fluctuations in enrollment.
Exact class size guidelines can be found on pages 2-3 in the full Future Study report. Additionally, each school building needs to have approximately 5%-10% extra capacity to account for small fluctuations in enrollment. With this in mind, it is not possible to fit our current K-5 population in four elementary schools.
19. Why was the closing of Northport Middle School not in any of the proposed scenarios, given the community concerns? (Added 10.23.20)
As previously stated, the purpose of Future Study is to determine if there are options that might provide cost-effective ways or patterns to organize how the PreK-12 program is implemented/delivered over the next three years, while keeping the integrity of our academic, co-currircular and extracurricular program intact. The closing of Northport Middle School ultimately did not fit into any scenarios that met this criteria, and therefore was not included within the proposed scenarios.
During the 2019-2020 school year, the Board engaged the services of P.W Grosser to conduct environmental testing after community concerns were raised. The conclusion reached by P.W Grosser after conducting extensive environmental testing was that the building was safe for students and staff to occupy. For more information regarding the environmental study by PWGC, click here.
In addition, the Board approved a separate study whose prime mission was to identify options that could deliver the K-12 program effectively without the use of Northport Middle School. The implications and possible scenarios resulting from that can be found in Appendix A (page 103) of the final Future Study report. It is important to note that the scenarios outlined in Appendix A were analyzed only by the SES Study Team and without the input of the Community Advisory Committee. Ultimately, these scenarios were not determined to be the most financially efficient of the possibilities, and therefore not presented in the five suggested scenarios.
However with that said, it is up to the Board of Education and district administration to determine the path forward, and all possible building and grade configurations will be considered.
20. Why can’t Bellerose Avenue house grades 5 and 6? (Added 10.23.20)
At this time, Bellerose Avenue does not have the capacity to hold two full grade levels districtwide. Under the current district class guidelines, Bellerose Avenue has the capacity to hold 374 students. In total, we have 686 students combined in grades 5 and 6 this year. An overview of students per grade level can be found in the presentation from October 14th posted to the district website.
21. What is the Adapted Scenario A option? (Added 10.30.20)
Adapted Scenario A was developed in consultation with the SES Study Team and reviewed by the Community Advisory Committee following extensive community feedback. The scenario still achieves our goal of maintaining class sizes and educational program, while offering significant financial savings. The full scenario is outlined in the chart below. No decision has been made at this time, but this is an additional scenario being considered by the Board of Education.
No decision has been made at this time, and this is an additional scenario being considered by the Board of Education. Ultimately, the Board will take the study, all scenario possibilities, Community Advisory Committee input, and greater community input into account when making a final decision.
Further details regarding the pupil capacity and cost savings of Adapted Scenario A can be found below and by clicking here.