As Riverhead School Population Climbs, $100 Million in Upgrades Proposed

Pictured Above: Riverhead High School

While many school districts on the East End have seen enrollment shrink in recent years, as the demand for second homes has pushed up real estate prices and pushed residents of modest means further west, enrollment is booming in the Riverhead Central School District, which proposed a $100 million construction bond in mid-September.

Riverhead voters had approved a $78 million construction bond in 2011, a major project that included a second story addition to the high school that was completed in 2015.

Enrollment throughout the district has increased about 16 percent since the last bond was approved by voters, and the district’s consultants estimate its Pulaski Street School for grades five and six is at 114 percent capacity, while the high school is at 98 percent capacity this year, while the district’s four elementary schools are at below 85 percent capacity.

BBS Architects presented its expansion proposal at the Riverhead School Board’s Sept. 11 meeting.

A major highlight of their proposal is the combining of the student populations at Pulaski Street School and the adjacent Riverhead Middle School, which has not yet reached capacity, creating one campus for grades five through eight.

Currently 1,696 students are enrolled between the two schools, with Pulaski at 114 percent capacity while the middle school is at 70 percent capacity. 

The project is designed for a peak enrollment of 1,695 — just below current levels at both Pulaski Street School and the Middle School, in 2027. 

The proposal also includes adding 24 classrooms to the high school, removing a series of modular classrooms, installing a synthetic turf field and a stadium running track, building a new field house and indoor turf field and track, and a new 20,000-square-foot administration building.

The high school proposal is designed to meet a prospective peak student population of 2,120 students in the high school, which would be 85 percent of its new capacity. In 2018, 1,922 students were enrolled in the high school.

The new campus would have a lighted walkway between buildings to allow students to travel within the school grounds between buildings.

The proposal also includes consolidating pre-Kindergarten programs throughout the district into one pre-K wing to be constructed at Phillips Avenue Elementary School in Riverside.

The proposal also includes $400,000 in security upgrades at each school campus, $3.3 million in LED lighting upgrades, and $18.8 million in capital projects like roofing, boilers and toilets.

The architects also asked the board to consider leasing rooftop and ground space for solar arrays, allowing the district to make money from the energy produced on its property.

The district had been considering the purchase of the McGann-Mercy High School campus on Roanoke Avenue behind Peconic Bay Medical Center, but that would have come with a more hefty price tag — $14 million for the property, along with $47 million to bring it up to public school standards and other capital expenses which came to a total of nearly $126 million.

Three community forums on the proposal are scheduled in Room 133 at Riverhead High School, 200 Harrison Ave. in Riverhead on Wednesdays, Oct. 16 and Oct. 30 and Tuesday, Nov. 5 at 7 p.m.

* These are date and time changes from the original schedule published in our October print edition. The schedule was revised by the school after we went to press.

The district is considering holding a vote on the bond as soon as January of 2020, and estimates that, on that timeline, construction would be finished by the fall of 2023.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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