The New Hyde Park Village Hall would once again shelter children as it did during its tenure as a schoolhouse, but only in times of emergencies when evacuations are necessary.
New Hyde Park Road School Principal Peggy Marenghi recently reached out to New Hyde Park Mayor Daniel Petruccio about the procedures for asking if the village hall could serve as the school’s designated evacuation site instead of New Hyde Park Memorial High School.
“It is her opinion that the proximity to our building is much closer, that that would be a better solution,” Petruccio said during a meeting of the village board on Tuesday night at the village hall.
“The high school is a long way for our kindergarten kids,” Marenghi said in a telephone conversation, explaining that the switch was not in response to the elementary school shootings in Newtown but was brought up upon regularly scheduled reviews of the school’s emergency evacuation plans.
“It was just a question of proximity,” she said.
Deputy mayor Robert Lofaro had expressed concerns about the village hall’s capacity to handlle all of the students.
“I think we can probably accommodate two or three grades of students and faculty, but I don’t know that we could accommodate the entire size of the school,” he said. “If we can fit them all, if we can fit most of them, I have absolutely no objection at all.”
Lofaro conjectured that kindergarten through fourth grade students would evacuate to the village hall in an emergency while fifth and sixth grade students would go to the Hillside Public Library.
“They may have to do that just for the physical amount of people,” Lofaro said.
It was Petruccio’s belief that the village hall would only be used as a staging area that is an off-site location.
“I thought between Marcus Christ Hall and the theater upstairs,” the mayor said about the capacity available. “I think the idea would be to bring them physically here first and then maybe they can distribute them from here. I think it’s getting them off that other site, the shortest, quickest way to get them from the Road School to an alternate site that could at least be a place where there’s communication, I think that’s what their thought process was.”
Trustee Lawrence Montreuil didn’t oppose the measure, but questioned whether Jericho Turnpike might present an obstacle to students crossing and asking about another location being the firehouse.
“We’re probably a better location for them because the firehouse may be active (in response),” Lofaro said, “so this would probably be a better location.”
There were no objections from the village board on the proposal.