By Antonia Brogna and Kaitlyn Martin
Sources say Westbury High School is experiencing scheduling delays following their decision to move ninth graders to an annex at Nassau Community College to combat overcrowding for the 2017-2018 school year.
With the district focused on moving 500 ninth graders into the leased annex for the first of day of classes on September 1, some of the everyday functions of the actual high school became delayed.
“Most of the students still right now don’t have many classes, including myself,” sophomore student Juliette Cortes said. “It seems like it’s been causing some stress, but they’re doing the best that they can.”
The high school staff is working hard to better this situation for its older students while also trying to settle new students in the Freshman Academy.
“This is only the seventh, eighth day of classes, so if students have scheduling conflicts, they are still being worked out,” Director of Guidance Deadra Faulkner said. “It’s a little delayed because we moved the freshmen, but we have a full staff of 75 teachers and classes. Even if they are still overcrowded, students are in classes.”
If the ninth graders were in the high school this year, there would have been 1700 students squeezing in a building made for about 1200. But the overcrowding wasn’t necessarily a surprise.
“It’s been ten years or so – we’ve slowly seen an enrollment increase in population,” Superintendent Eudes Budhai said. “It hasn’t been until the last two years that the spike was significant enough to place us in a precarious situation of overcrowding.”
Moving the ninth graders to the annex was supposed to help alleviate some of the pressures of overcrowding, such as the overpacked classrooms and impossibly crowded hallways, at least for this school year.
The Westbury school district has been in session for nearly two weeks now, and so far, it seems the Freshman Academy has been a success.
“Students are loving the space there,” Superintendent Budhai said. “We have not received any negative responses from students or parents.”
The change in venue for the ninth grade has parents and students alike excited about the possibility of a better learning environment.
“He really liked the classrooms,” Latonya Skeene said of her son, who just started at the Freshman Academy. “They was big, had big windows, and they had A/C. They will have a better structure and less distractions due to overcrowdings being in the Annex.”
The early exposure to college campuses the freshmen students will be experiencing has not gone unnoticed by some parents.
“They’ll see two colleges daily, Nassau and Hofstra, and actually be on a college campus, gearing them up,” Jonathan Whitaker, whose son just started school at the Freshman Academy, said. “I still feel it’s good for them.”
Even though older students are experiencing delays in scheduling, they are still feeling the effects of 500 fewer students filling the halls at Westbury High School.
“The halls are definitely less crowded,” Juliette said. “But they’re still not comfortable enough to walk through easily. It still takes time to get from class to class, and you still bump into people often.”
While no solution is perfect, creating a Freshman Academy has, at the least, given the school district more time to figure out how to navigate its rapidly-growing future. Until then, they will have to find a way to split their resources in a way that will take care of students in the high school and in the annex in a timely manner.