Students voice concerns, new middle school assistant principal hired: school

Students at Riverhead High School raised their concerns about the lack of after school bus transportation and the building’s overcrowded hallways to the Board of Education during its meeting yesterday.

Student representative Michelle Nunez said there are only buses for after school transportation at 4:15 p.m., although most clubs and after school activities end at 3 p.m.. This leaves students waiting for the buses unsupervised for an hour.

“I would also like to mention that the wait time mostly discourages students from participating in other after school clubs,” Nunez said, adding that getting home late in the afternoon is what discouraged her from participating in many after school activities last year.

Superintendent Augustine Tornatore said in an interview after the meeting that the problem is a shortage of bus drivers and the district is looking to get bus routing in a better place. The district contracted with the Transpar Group for a transportation efficiency and electric vehicle feasibility study in October. Tornatore said the study will examine the students’ concerns.

“So that’s a part of this study, and that we would like to get to a place where we can restore that, because they’re 100% right, the students,” Tornatore said.

Student representative Connor Moos brought up a potential resolution for overcrowding issues experienced in the high school. He said with classes being offered in the south portables this year — a change made to allow for additional classroom space —there is only one, overcrowded hallway students can use to access the portables. Moos suggested the board and administration create an alternative route by constructing a new sidewalk from the exit doors between the cafeteria and the math wing to ease the congestion.

“It’s gridlock. It’s really difficult to get through and it does present some safety issues,” Moos said.

Moos also suggested installing an exit door inside of the nurse’s office. He said this would allow access to the ambulance staging area in case of a medical emergency without needing to close the fire doors and disrupt the flow of traffic in the hallways near the office. 

“As we work to create resolutions to redistribute paths in the halls, we understand that this cannot be a one-man job. We kindly ask for support of the board administrators within the district office to aid in these projects we are working towards,” Moos said.

Student representative Aela Bailey also mentioned an issue that students resolved recently with high school administration relating to bathroom use. The issue was caused by a “lack of communication between administration and security,” she said. Bathrooms had been closed between class periods and during the first and last 10 minutes of each class period in response to problems like “vandalism, loitering and vaping.” Bailey said locking the bathrooms violated state policy and could lead to major health concerns. After compiling a survey of her fellow students’ opinions on the issue, the matter was brought to the administration and it was decided the bathrooms will remain open during all school hours unless under maintenance. 

Superintendent Augustine Tornatore and the Board of Education at its Nov. 28 meeting. Photo: Alek Lewis

Also during the meeting, the Board of Education approved the hiring of a new assistant principal for the middle school. Emmanuel Hernandez will start on Jan. 3 at an annual salary of $141,755 in the position. The addition of Hernandez means two assistant principals will be apart of the building’s administration, rather than one.

Hernandez replaces Kenneth Coard, who was Riverhead’s first dean of students before leaving earlier this month to become an assistant principal in the Amityville Union Free School District. The dean of students was a new administrative position created at the beginning of the 2021 school year to focus on improving student behavior. The position was split between both the middle and high school.  

Tornatore said in an interview after last night’s meeting that the position moved to an assistant principal position after conversations with the middle school’s administration. He said it was a “challenge” that the dean was split between two buildings. The assistant principals in the middle school will assume the dean’s former responsibilities, each of them taking on a grade level, Tornatore…

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