School Closure and Reorganization FAQ
1. Why is the district proposing to reorganize the schools?
While there are a wide variety of factors that influenced the decision to propose reorganizing the school district, two of the most impactful include declining enrollment and the LIPA tax certiorari settlement agreement. Enrollment in the district has declined by approximately 1,600 students (25%) over the past 10 years, leaving many of our buildings with increasing inefficiencies.
Additionally, the LIPA 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 proposed school closures and reorganization will reduce the tax burden on the school community and allow the district to not only maintain the instructional program that our community has come to expect, but also enhance it as well.
Other contributing factors which led to the decision to consider a district reorganization include the burden of the 2% Tax Cap and ongoing capital improvements to our buildings.
For more information about the factors that influenced the district’s decision to reorganize, please view the study reports found here.
2. When did the district begin this process?
In June 2019, 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.” This planning process included commissioning 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.
Since that time, there has been substantial work to find the most appropriate path forward for our district, which included both a Community Advisory Committee and a School Closure Task Force Advisory Committee to evaluate the impact of a school reorganization on our community.
An overview of the full process, including SES Study, Community Advisory Committee and School Closure Task Force Advisory Committee work can be found in the Educational Impact Statement.
3. What is the proposed reorganization model? What schools are proposed to close?
The district is proposing to move forward with a school reorganization plan called Adapted Scenario A, which involves closing Dickinson Avenue and Bellerose Avenue. If approved the reorganization would begin in September 2021. It also converts the remaining four elementary schools to grades K-4, and both middle schools will house grades 5-8. Northport High School will continue to house grades 9-12. Below is an outline of the new structure.
4. What are the proposed new school boundary lines?
The proposed updated school boundaries can be found by clicking this link. Community members can enter their address to view their designated schools.
These boundaries were thoughtfully designed to balance the capacity of each school building, ensuring that there is adequate space for not only students, but also educational programming such as a Makerspace for STEM exploration, library, physical education, special education services and more. The capacity in each building also maintains our small class sizes, which are at or below the contractual guidelines.
These boundaries also allow us to have a direct feeder program, where all students attending Norwood Avenue and Ocean Avenue will attend Northport Middle School, and all students attending Pulaski Road and Fifth Avenue will attend East Northport Middle School.
5. Will variances be available for students who have been rezoned?
The district has a Board of Education policy in place regarding variances. Any family may request a variance for their child. Any current middle school students who have been rezoned will not be required to change buildings. For students who have siblings currently attending middle school, their variance requests will be granted to keep siblings in the same middle school.
All other variance requests will be reviewed on an individual basis.
Variance applications for the 2021-2022 school year were accepted between January and March 26th, and the district will share final decisions regarding these requests following the vote of the Board of Education on April 29, 2021.
6. Why is it important to implement this restructuring during the 2021-2022 school year?
The district is proposing to implement Adapted Scenario A during the 2021-2022 school year for several reasons, including:
The LIPA tax certiorari 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 proposed school closures and district reorganization, through greater efficiencies and realized cost savings, will help to mitigate this burden while allowing the district to not only maintain but enhance the extensive educational program our community expects.
In preparation for the possibility of school closures, the district offered a retirement incentive to the UTN, which resulted in over 60 retirements among teachers, teaching assistants and nurses. Should the district keep all six elementary buildings open and postpone the implementation of this scenario until 2022-2023, a significant number of staff would need to be hired for one year, and then subsequently excessed at the end of the school year when the buildings close. Not only is it difficult to hire qualified staff under these circumstances, but also this may result in some teachers leaving the district for more permanent opportunities in other districts, causing disruption to our students’ school year.
7. How much is the district expecting to save as a result of the proposed closures and school reorganization?
The district estimates saving approximately $7.1 million per year due to the proposed school closures and reorganization. Approximate $284,000 of these savings have been redeployed to provide educational enhancements to our students. The net yearly savings is approximately $6.9 million, which will be approximately $69 million in savings over the next 10 years.
Additionally, the district anticipates approximately $10 million in one-time cost savings due to capital work avoidance. This includes renovations and maintenance that do not need to be done once the two buildings have closed.
There is also an opportunity for the district to generate additional funds through the lease, rental or sale of the closed buildings. Any decisions made regarding the future use of the buildings will be discussed publicly, and in the event of a sale, would require voter approval. At this time, the district intends to keep the buildings available for the 2021-2022 school year in the event they are needed.
8. How did this proposed reorganization impact the budget? How will it impact my taxes?
The district’s proposal to reorganize the schools was thoughtfully factored into this year’s budget. The proposed $6.9 million savings includes a significant reduction in staff, largely offset by the retirement incentive, as well as decreased building maintenance costs.
These savings translate to approximately $336 for the average taxpayer (house assessed value of 3,800) for next year and every subsequent year. These savings also reduced the per pupil cost by approximately $1,400.
The district and Board of Education have an obligation to be financially responsible. The proposed reorganization allows the district to increase efficiencies, plan for the future and continue to not only maintain but enhance educational opportunities for students.
EDUCATIONAL PROGRAM & ENHANCEMENTS
9. Will class size guidelines change?
No. Class sizes will continue to be at or below our administrative guidelines. An important component of the district’s plan and the work of the Community Advisory Committee was to ensure that class sizes can remain at or below our administrative guidelines, which are below the contractual guidelines. Small class sizes continue to be an important part of the district’s commitment to individualized attention to students’ needs.
10. How will you be transitioning 5th graders into the middle school? What opportunities will they have as a result?
The district has put significant thought and consideration into how to best integrate our fifth grade students into the middle schools. This includes careful placement of the students within the buildings to insulate them to the extent possible. In both Northport Middle School and East Northport Middle School, 5th graders will be placed in classrooms that are deliberately separated from 7th and 8th graders. Schools are also evaluating drop-off and dismissal procedures to insulate 5th graders to the extent possible.
The 5th grade curriculum will continue to be delivered as it has been in the elementary buildings.
The proposal also includes:
The addition of a school counselor specifically for 5th grade at each middle school
Enhanced educational opportunities such as an exploratory world language program, increased STEM opportunities, increased time for band and orchestra during 0 period, and increased physical education time.
Redeployment of staff, including nurses, teacher aides and assistants, to ensure student support and supervision is sufficient in each middle school building.
Teachers will work in teams of two across two classes, where one teacher is focused on the humanities and one is focused on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). This provides a graduated transition between the elementary and middle school schedules.
Additional transition events and activities such as moving up ceremonies, orientations and clubs and extra-curricular experiences are currently being planned at the building level.
11. Are there any changes to the special education program or AIS program?
The reorganization allows the district to expand opportunities for elementary students in grades K-5 by providing more contact with a special education teacher. Specifically, the ICT (Integrated Co-Teaching) program will expand to a full day model. ICT provides a special education teacher working alongside the general education classroom teacher to increase academic support not only for students with disabilities, but also for all students in the classes with this service. It should be noted that the increase to ICT services is possible at no additional cost due to the efficiencies of having four elementary schools rather than six.
Additionally, grades K-5 special class programs will be available at Norwood Avenue, Pulaski Road and Northport Middle School.
Finally, modeled after sixth grade, fifth grade AIS (Academic Intervention Services) will be embedded in Math and ELA classes where AIS staff will push in to classes to provide academic support and students will not be pulled out to receive these services.
12. What enhancements and transition procedures will the district be implementing for elementary students changing buildings?
The district is continuing to develop integration strategies for welcoming students entering grades K-4 into their new buildings. While exact events and activities are still being planned, the district will hold, at a minimum, an in-person orientation for students and parents at each building and welcome events as we approach the fall.
Additionally, in anticipation of this transition, our school counselors have been working with each building on topics such as emotion regulation and resilience during #ForwardFridays. These sessions are designed to assist students in building skills to help them not only transition to new buildings, but also to be able to utilize them in situations in or outside of school in the future.
Elementary students will also now have increased STEM exploration and use of the building Makerspaces. All day ICT services will also be available. More information about ICT services can be found in question 11.
Our experienced and caring staff is prepared to welcome students and provide them with the support needed to successfully transition to a new building.
FACULTY & STAFF:
13. How does this impact faculty & staff? Where will they be placed?
Thanks to the careful timing of a retirement incentive during the 2020-2021 school year, the district had over 60 retirements. Due to the reorganization, the district did not need to replace many of these personnel, providing significant savings due to this reduction in staff.
Most staff of the closed buildings will be redeployed to other buildings to accommodate the increased number of students in those schools. Teachers had an opportunity to express their preferred transfer location, and the district is currently in the process of evaluating these requests and determining staff placements.
14. Can we still close Bellerose Avenue and Dickinson Avenue with COVID-19 guidelines?
Under the current New York State and Suffolk County health department guidelines (as of April 2021), the district can operate the same educational program it is currently operating without the use of Bellerose Avenue and Dickinson Avenue.
Should health and safety guidelines become increasingly limiting (such as increased social distancing requirements to more than 6 feet, etc.) the district would need to pivot and keep buildings open. The district has thoughtfully incorporated $1.9 million in COVID-19 contingency funds in the event this is necessary. It should be noted that in this event, the district, and likely all districts across the state, would need to pivot their educational program to accommodate stricter protocols. Additionally, the district’s ability to execute certain educational enhancements may be hindered; however, this is dependent on the nature of the enhancement.
The district will continue to follow all state and local guidelines and put the safety of our students, faculty and staff first. With that said, our hope remains that the 2021-2022 school year will more closely resemble a typical school year, and these educational enhancements will be successfully executed.
15. The pandemic has had a tremendous impact on our students. How are you addressing their social-emotional needs during this transition?
The district recognizes that students have been deeply impacted by the pandemic and its effects on the educational system. Across all schools, our school psychologists, social workers and counselors continue to provide meaningful support to our students. During the 2020-21 school year, the district-wide SEL Committee distributed a Panorama Education survey which allowed us to gain insight into students and families struggling socially or emotionally during this year, and the district has taken a tiered approach to responding to these students. The SEL Committee will continue to partner with Panorama Education to ensure continued focus on the social-emotional needs of our students and are able to accurately assess and respond to those needs.
Additionally, the district has added a full time 5th grade counselor at each middle school to ensure that students who are transitioning to middle school have adequate support. Elementary students will continue to have the support of the full building level mental health team as well as ongoing SEL work built into their daily educational experience.