District elects to use remaining Smart Schools Bond Act money for security vestibule

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In a meeting that was made virtual due to rising cases of COVID-19, the West Islip Board of Education met on Jan. 6 and announced they will be utilizing the remaining $1.8 million from the Smart Schools Investment Plan for the installation of a security vestibule in the district administrative office located in the Beach Street Middle School.

Elisa Pellati, the district’s assistant superintendent for business, went through a short slideshow during the meeting explaining the project.

“The Smart Schools Bond Act (SSBA) was passed in 2014,” Pellati said. “The SSBA authorized the issuance of $2 billion of general obligation bonds to finance improved educational technology and infrastructure to improve learning opportunities for students. The funds never expire and there are no submission deadlines.”

This money from the state can be used to install high-speed broadband or wireless connectivity, acquire learning technology equipment, construct, enhance and modernize educational facilities to accommodate pre-kindergarten programs or installing high-tech security features in school buildings and on school campuses.  The West Islip district received $2,973,629 from the state. In 2017, the district submitted a Smart Schools Investment Plan for a Phase 1 school connectivity project in the amount of $1,640,487. This Phase 1 project included upgrading the network infrastructure and implementing a Wi-Fi infrastructure for wireless access in all classrooms for grades K-12. The total costs incurred from Phase 1 was $1,137,770. For Phase 2 the district has $1,835,859 for the addition of the security vestibules.

“All of the West Islip School buildings have security vestibules at their main entrances,” Pellati said. The installation of these vestibules was completed during the 2019-20 school year and was part of the $50 million bond referendum that was approved by the community in 2015.”

The slideshow stated that the vestibules will make the building safer with visitors requesting entrance via a buzzer at the first set of doors and then enter a vestibule area where the door ahead is locked. Visitors must show identification to a greeter before these second set of doors are unlocked. Final approval of Phase 2 of the Smart Schools Investment Plan will be at the Jan. 18 Board of Education planning session. The final plan will be posted on the district website and submitted to the New York State Education Department on Jan. 19. Residents may provide written feedback on the plan at wi.k12.ny.us or send a letter to West Islip UFSD 100 Sherman Ave., West Islip, NY 11795 Attn: Elisa Pellati, Asst. Superintendent for Business.

Also discussed at the meeting was that starting on Jan. 6, the district pivoted to a modified hybrid model that allows for quarantined and isolated students at home to observe classes through devices and a classroom webcam.

“The current uptick in COVID cases is putting a temporary strain on the district’s ability to provide homebound instruction to students that are isolated or quarantined because of the virus,” said Dawn Morrisey, assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

Morrisey said the district will return to the homebound instruction model for quarantined or isolated students that was established at the beginning of the school year as soon as it is feasible to do so, and that the situation will be assessed on a weekly basis.

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