North Fork schools dealing with aftermath of Irene


Irene may be out of sight, but her aftermath continues to wreak havoc across the North Fork, particularly among some school superintendents hustling to deal with last-minute building maintenance and information needs the week before students return to classrooms:


In Southold, Superintendent David Gamberg said he can’t access the number of students expected to start classes Wednesday, Sept. 7.

“It’s definitely putting a crimp on everything,” the superintendent said.

He recalled that about 65 students were signed up for kindergarten, representing a slight increase over last fall’s numbers. There are some increases in other grades in the K-12 district, but he didn’t have those figures.

Mr. Gamberg is concerned about the custodial staff’s ability to finish waxing floors and complete other tasks requiring electricity.

Much of the work is done, but what left on the to-do list is on hold until power is restored.

During the summer, the energy performance contract got under way replacing doors and windows, the superintendent said. A number of other changes designed to improve energy efficiency will take place during the year ahead.

Under the district’s contract with Johnson Controls, Southold will save an estimated $96,238 per year in energy costs over the next 18 years. The changes needed to make that happen are expected to cost $1.5 million. Johnson Controls guarantees the savings and, if they’re not achieved, will make up for any loss.

Sidewalks were repaired during the summer and work continues to resolve difficulties with the district’s tennis courts.


The Greenport school building is undergoing a massive renovation, including repairs to the roof and windows, new boilers and auditorium renovation. Work began this summer and is expected to continue until early 2012, said Superintendent Michael Comanda. But that won’t disturb classes as most construction will take place after school and on weekends, he said. An occasional class may need to be moved temporarily while new windows are installed.

The district expects to welcome about 615 students in kindergarten through grade 12.

A new advanced placement environmental science class is being added to the curriculum, the superintendent said, as is a new food course called “Everything Italian.”

The district is also participating in a new program called Odyssey Ware designed to prevent students from dropping out. The online curriculum enables students to learn at an individualized pace that meets their unique needs.


Students in the Mattituck-Cutchogue Union Free School District head back to class on Thursday, Sept. 8, one day later than those in other North Fork districts.

Superintendent James McKenna expects about 1,500 students. The incoming kindergarten numbers are similar to last year’s, he said.

Enrollment numbers are down for the town’s largest school district. The school graduated 150 in June and has about 75 are starting kindergarten next week. Under pressure to keep costs down, there isn’t a raft of new programs starting this fall, Mr. McKenna said.

“We tried to hang on to as much as we could,” he said. The technology program has been upgraded with the addition of classes in computer-assisted design, he said.

The Cutchogue East campus has a new sidewalk and some new safety features, and the junior-senior high school will have a new gym floor. It won’t quite be ready by the time classes start next week, but should be finished shortly thereafter, the superintendent said.


Power was restored at Oysterponds Elementary School Tuesday morning, although the surrounding residential community remained without power, according to new principal Francoise Wittenburg.

“I’m excited,” Ms. Wittenburg said of welcoming back teachers and students next week.

She is the primary change students will experience when they return to class next Wednesday. Ms. Wittenburg was hired as full-time principal during the summer, relieving Superintendent Joan Frisicano from that additional responsibility. Ms. Frisicano will continue as part-time superintendent.

The school expects about 85 students in kindergarten through grade 6, with another 56 continuing their secondary education in Greenport.

During the summer, the school building has undergone some basic repairs.


New Suffolk School, where 19 or 20 students are expected back Wednesday, will have three full-time teachers this year. Holly Plymale returns as head teacher and will work with primary grade students and Sara Campbell returns to work with the older students. Former part-time teacher Nicole Pollina will move up to full-time status next week, providing more flexibility in meeting each student’s individual needs, Superintendent Robert Feger said.

Ms. Plymale will work with students in kindergarten through second grade and Ms. Campbell with those in grades three to six.
The district made a change in its preschool program, now offering classes five days a week instead of three. But the classes will be a half-hour shorter each day, running from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. instead of 11 a.m.

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