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Tour Helps West Hempstead Decide Fate of Eventual Vacant School

Space Utilization Committee tours Chestnut Street School and soon-to-be vacant Eagle Avenue/Marion Delaney School.

West Hempstead residents received an eye-opening tour of the soon-to-be vacant school building on Eagle Avenue Tuesday night.

The district's , an informal group consisting of school board members, officials and residents, walked through  , which contains nearly 10,000 sq. ft of unused space. Then, they toured the 51,155 sq. ft. l (formerly Marion Delaney) building that Nassau BOCES will be vacating on June 30, 2013 BOCES's depature leaves the West Hempstead school district with not only an empty building to fill, but also a roughly $500,000 revenue gap.

Although the Board of Education has made no decision on what to do with the building as it awaits a recommendation from the Space Utilization Committee, which should come in late October, new information suggests the likelihood that the district will move any of its students into Marion Delaney, re-establishing it as a public school, is looking slim. 

, showed that the district's enrollment is expected to remain steady, possibly even decline further, and therefore, it should not need to open a fourth building to house its students. (If it were to experience a modest increase in students, there is enough unused space it is three existing school buildings to accommodate them.) However, the district could choose to close Chestnut Street School and re-open Marion Delaney School instead, but the case for doing this does not appear to be strong.

Marion Delaney is 10 percent bigger than Chestnut Street, which is just under 46,000 sq. ft, Deputy Superintendent Richard Cunningham explained, but the latter is more compact and the space better utilized. Because of the way the Eagle Avenue building was originally structured and modifications made to it by both Adelphi University, who leased it first, and its current tenant, Nassau BOCES, not all that extra space is usable. (BOCES installed several walls to break up classrooms to create smaller learning spaces to better suit its special education population, but under its lease, it will be required to remove some of them before returning the building back to West Hempstead.)

"There isn't much difference between the number of classrooms [at Chestnut] and the number at Marion Delaney," Cunningham said. "Marion Delaney was built primarily in the 1920s ... and the intent of architecture was different." He admitted that "visually, Marion Delaney is a very striking building, very grand ... but grand spaces are expensive."

If the school district were to re-open Marion Delaney as a public school, it would be required to make it compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act, which would be costly and challenging because the building's various levels would require multiple elevators and lifts.

A comparison of the two buildings also shows that Marion Delaney's utility costs are higher. Adding up the bills for electricity, gas, oil and water, it cost $110,850 to operate Marion Delaney last year, compared to $42,265 for Chestnut. (A major area of savings for the district, is that Chestnut is located in a portion of West Hempstead that has access to high-pressured gas so it spent nothing on oil during the past two years.)

Estimates of what repairs, upgrades and other maintenance the two schools might need over the next five years, predicted that Marion Delaney could cost close to $3 million, nearly triple the amount needed for Chestnut.

As the committee walked through both buildings Tuesday, they were impressed by Marion Delaney's stage, housed inside its large, high-ceiling gym, two amenities lacking in Chestnut. However, they expressed disappointment in the size of the instructional spaces, the maze-like layout of the building, its lower efficiency heating system, and its lack of air conditioning and handi-cap accessibility.

"There are some very nice aspects to this building," Cunningham said.

Superintendent John Hogan revealed that the district has shown it to two interested educational institutions -- one parochial, one private (No, it wasn't a charter school.) -- already, but says all options are still on the table. And if the decision was made to sell the building, it would require voter approval.

The next meeting of the Space Utilization Committee is schedule for Oct. 2 at 7:30 p.m. in the West Hempstead High School videoconference room.

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