Ron LeeSep 1, 2017, 1:12 pmSep 1, 2017, 1:28 pm

Westbury ninth-graders start school at Nassau Community College building

Students are in an annex due to significant issues with overcrowding


Some ninth-graders in a Nassau County school district are heading to back to school on Friday. And they'll be in a unique setting; they’ll be away from other students in their high school.

Due to significant issues with overcrowding, these ninth-graders are starting their freshman year at Westbury High School away from the building where you'll find sophomores, juniors, and seniors. They’re in an annex at Nassau Community College that features hi-tech computer labs and more than a dozen classrooms.

Westbury High School Principal David Zimbler says, "People were here last night spackling and painting at one in the morning. So we are ready to go! We can't wait!"

The superintendent for the Westbury School District says the decision to lease classroom space in Garden City to house all 336 ninth graders is merely a temporary fix to address a major problem with overcrowding.

"We want our students back at our high school, so that plan now is for the Board of Education and the community to come together to really talk about what expansions need to happen, what spaces need to be reviewed and looked at so we can decide how to meet the needs of our students moving forward," says Eudes Budhai, Westbury Schools superintendent.

School officials say Westbury High School can only handle 1,190 students. However, enrollment as of Friday is close to 1,700.

And while some students admit they’re disappointed that they won't be in the same building as other students who are in different grades, they're getting an ‘A’ for understanding.

Freshman Nicholas Rose says, "We're gonna be more unified as a class, I believe. But if you have the upperclassmen, you're going to be able to have mentors because they're older than you."

Freshman Loren Hunt says, "It will be different of course, but it should be fine because it's better than being in a crowded building."

At this time, it's not clear how long the district plans to use what is being called an academy to house the ninth-graders.

But what we do know is that the plan was not officially given the green light until late last month, when the State Education Commissioner overruled a decision by the State Education Department to not allow the high school to lease the space.

The Westbury Schools superintendent says the state education commissioner has approved a lease for one year.

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