Although the Malverne School District opened its two recently renovated elementary schools to students and faculty in early September, they made it official this month.
School administrators and board members were joined by students, parents, faculty and NYS Sen. Dean Skelos and Assemblywoman Earlene Hooper on Oct. 10 to hold a ribbon cutting at Maurice W. Downing School.
"This is a wonderful addition to the great school system that exists in the Malverne school community," Sen. Skelos said, recognizing the school board, administrators, and "most of all, the parents who want to make sure all these young kids ... get the quality of education they deserve."
The next day, a similar dedication was held at Davison Avenue School. The ceremonies gave the public a chance to tour both facilities, which underwent substantial upgrades as part of a $14.1 million capital bond project that Malverne school district residents approved in November 2010. (The district will be getting 40 percent, $5.6 million, of the $14.1 million residents are putting up for the bond back from the state.)
After waiting six months, the district finally received the approvals from New York State during the summer of 2011 for the Davison and Downing projects, which were Proposition #1 of the bond, and started the work that fall. The goal was to have the renovations completed by August 2012, but unexpected delays caused when the buildings opened in early September for the 2012-2013 school year.
"To put things into perspective ... we completed a [$14.1 million] two-year construction program in one year, on-schedule and under budget," Assistant Superintendent of District Operations Spiro Coalitis explained. "That represents more construction in this district [over the past 13 months] than if you combine the last 40 years together."
For the first few weeks in September and October, students at both elementary schools received library instruction via carts that came to their classrooms and they had to do without hot lunches for a few days. But as district officials led residents through tours of both buildings on Oct. 10 an Oct. 11, they could see the libraries were open, albeit still lacking books, computers and other equipment, the new classrooms were set-up and the cafeterias were fully functional. The tour also showcased the schools' new art and music rooms, rooms dedicated for speech and ESL instruction, a new elevator at Davison and computer lab.
Superintendent Dr. Hunderfund said, "This work really involved a lot of people from several years ago ... [when] the Board of Education had a dream that we would make something really happen here that would be sorely needed for ur children, our community and certainly, our staff."
Hunderfund thanked the residents, school board members and faculty that served on the committee that worked on the bond and also the plan to reorganize the district's elementary schools, taking them from "twin K-4 schools" to a primary school (Downing) that now houses all the district's Kindergarten to Grade 2 students and a secondary school (Davison) that educates all the third, fourth and fifth graders.
"This is a four-year culmination of thoughts, planning and implementation and then, our community voted it in," he added. "This is the first in 35 years that we have had a bond issue pass for a new structure."
Although Hunderfund alluded to the past school board members who worked on the bond in his speech, the names of former BOE Trustees Patrick Coonan and Karen Aker -- who helped craft and pass the bond and oversaw much of the work -- were not included on the plaques placed inside the new wings of both buildings. Instead, they listed the names of school administrators, and the current board, including two trustees who came into office in May and July of this year.
One of those board members, Trustee Joey Bottitta, pointed out that "this was a collective effort, not only by this board but the prior board, and Mrs. Aker and Mr. Coonan were a part of that ... It shows what we can do when we all come together on an issue and really make something happen."
Trustee Gina Genti objected to the choice not to include Aker and Coonan in the ribbon-cutting ceremonies and issued an apology on Facebook, stating, "It was a classless decision on the district's part as both were instrumental in the decision-making and final result put to the voters."
The district still has some "punch list" items remaining before it can say the bond work is completely done. But speaking to Davison students at the Oct. 11 ribbon-cutting, Trustee Michael Taylor said, "Now, the quality of your facilities matches the quality of education you are getting."