The Riverhead Central School District is looking to counter misinformation and clarify the district’s $97 million capital expansion and improvement plan ahead of the scheduled Feb. 25 bond vote, district officials said Tuesday night. Their goal is to “put the right information out there.”
School board president Greg Meyer said conversations with residents in the community have made board members realize that many people had incomplete or incorrect information. The public forums the district has held on the plan have been sparsely attended, he said.
The district has been working with its public relations firm, Syntax, to come up with strategies to counter misinformation or lack of information. First, he said, they have put together a flyer in a Q & A format with eight to 10 points to answer the voters’ most pressing questions based on the input received during the last few months. This flyer will be available digitally on the district’s website, but it will also be mailed directly to community members.
More public forums set
Second, they have added a third bond presentation meeting to the two public forums that had already been scheduled. This new meeting will take place on Tuesday, Feb. 4 at 6:30 p.m. at Pulaski Street Elementary School. Other meetings are scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 1 at 9 a.m. at the high school and Thursday Feb. 13 at 7 p.m. at the high school.
Third, said Meyer, the board has been working with the Parent Teacher Organization, and plans to approach community groups like the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary Club to give presentations there as well and to ask for help “spreading the word.” He also said that the board is willing to go before any other group that requests a presentation.
In addition, Meyer urged voters to call Deputy Superintendent Sam Schneider at the district’s business office to get information on the tax impact that the bond proposal will have on their individual property, something he said, that most people he had talked to were not aware of.
“We want to get the word out there and we want the bond to pass,” Meyer said in an interview. “We will continue to reach out, work with organizations, hope parents in the district spread the word and hopefully the false narratives that are spread through social media and in other ways will diminish.”
Parents present at the board of education meeting Tuesday night expressed their dismay about the possibility of the bond not passing on Feb. 25, and asked board members to explain what the alternative would be if the bond is not approved.
“This upcoming bond hits very close to home,” Aquebogue resident and mother of four children in the district Amanda Golz said. “Not passing this bond will for sure have a negative effect on my children as well as many others.”
“I know there’s a lot of negativity surrounding this bond and a lot of naysayers, however, there will be more negative repercussions if this bond does not pass,” she added. “I too am a taxpayer I own my own home. There is so much talk about how much taxes will be raised with this bond. But if you break it down and look at the big picture, that’s really only a small portion of it. People are misinformed.”
Sharon Park, mother of a fifth grader at Pulaski Elementary School and a second grader at Aquebogue Elementary School, asked the board if split sessions at Pulaski Street were a possibility if the bond doesn’t pass, as other community members have mentioned. Park voiced opposition, saying split sessions would significantly disrupt families and working parents.
“We don’t want split sessions or anything else like that,” Meyer said. “Right now with the minor things we’ve done, we will be able to skip by the rest of the school year, but come Feb. 26, if the bond doesn’t pass, well, we are going to have to face reality and that’s something we are going to really think about,” he said.
“Now, I don’t want to waste energy on that, I want us to focus and educate everybody about what this [the bond] is, and get it out there,” Meyer added.
Currently, Pulaski school and the high school have exceeded capacity limits. As of October, Pulaski was at 112% utilization and the high school at 104%, according to district data. Due to increased enrollment, additional classes have already been added at the high school to accommodate all students, executive director for curriculum and instruction and professional personnel, Lori Koerner said last night.
Riverhead Central Faculty Association president Gregory Wallace spoke in favor of the bond proposal as well and urged voters to approve it. He warned that if the bond does not pass, the district will “not have the physical space to educate children using the traditional model.”
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