Liverman urging better readiness in CIP

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 10, 2003

Considering Hurricane Isabel’s lingering impact on the division’s resources and facilities, Suffolk Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Milton R. Liverman has urged board members to &uot;start planning at a different level&uot; to handle future threatening weather.

&uot;It is encumbered upon us to prepare,&uot; stressed Liverman during the board’s monthly meeting Thursday night, &uot;especially considering our growing population.&uot;

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His comments came on the heels of lauding school officials for their tireless efforts in coordinating resources and manning school sites as shelters during the storm’s aftermath. The superintendent also praised the city’s diligent emergency management procedures, which operated with &uot;military precision.&uot;

&uot;I want to thank the city manager and staff for their assistance,&uot; Liverman added. &uot;They were a major factor in us being able to open in a timely manner. If there was a way they could help us, they provided the way.&uot;

He also read a letter that applauded John F. Kennedy Middle School Principal Vivian Covington and her staff for their unlimited work at the facility while it was used as a shelter during Isabel.

&uot;This is indicative of what happened at all of our shelters,&uot; said Liverman. &uot;It reflects the quality of people we have working with the school system.&uot;

His remarks coincided with the board’s approval of its 10-year capital improvements plan, which highlights the construction of a $23 million elementary school in the northern/eastern corridor of the city in 2004-2005. Burgeoning growth continues to keep the school division in a catch-up position, adding modular units to even the city’s newest school constructions. There are 65 portable classrooms in use, where 1,625 of the city’s students are now being taught.

&uot;We get brand new buildings and then we start adding trailers,&uot; lamented Board member John R. Riddick at the board meeting.

Because of the city’s rapid growth, the schools need to break ground on an elementary school immediately, and renovate its three aging middle schools, according to the capital plan. Student population has increased by nearly 40 percent over the past decade as compared to 10 percent for the previous 10 years.

The 10-year plan includes three additional elementary schools, one of which would replace Robertson and Southwestern elementary.

Plans call for a 675-capacity school, while Riddick has asked the board to plan for future growth and at least accommodate 800 students. Liverman said the school could be constructed to make room for additional wings as needed.

He has asked that generators be incorporated in the plans for the existing middle schools. Prior to 1990, schools were not equipped with generators.

Liverman sees this as an integral part of preparing for future disasters to accommodate likely increased demands for shelters in the city. Approximately 600 city and nearby residents took advantage of the two high schools and one middle school used for shelters.

Because Suffolk is on the area’s evacuation route, Liverman emphasized the need to anticipate more future demand for shelters in Suffolk. Local shelters also housed a group of disabled citizens from a Zuni facility.

&uot;We need to reassess where we have emergency generators,&uot; said Liverman.

The schools lost an estimated $100,000 in food, for which the division is seeking reimbursement through FEMA and its insurance. Staff is continuing to assess damage throughout the system. According to James Thorsen, director of facilities management, the schools were quite &uot;lucky.&uot;

As for the capital plan, city council is scheduled to take a vote by Dec. 17. The school board plan calls for $250 million for the next 10 years, while figures from the city put its funding level at $114 million.