School Eyes Springs Youth Building

Town-owned space could be used for two additional classrooms this fall
The Springs Youth Association building, which is on Springs School land but is owned by East Hampton Town, may be used to house overflow classes in the fall. Bridget LeRoy

    There was celebration at the Springs School Board meeting on Monday night, as Christopher Kelley signed a high school tuition agreement with the East Hampton School District, but also controversy, as Kelly McKee, president of the Springs Youth Association, questioned the district’s intention to use the youth association building behind the school for classrooms next year.
    “We’re very concerned we’re going to be pushed out,” Mr. McKee said. The building is on school land, but belongs to the Town of East Hampton.
    “I’m not just speaking for myself,” he said, “I’m speaking for all the members of the original [youth association] board. You promised us that you were not going to use that building.”
    The building in question, located off Old Stone Highway, includes two classrooms, an activity hall, a kitchen, and an office.
    Michael Hartner, the Springs superintendent, said that he was “anticipating the need for more classroom space,” and admitted that the school has been in discussions with the town board about using the building, but with no intention of interfering with the activities of the Springs Youth Association.
    That did not assuage Mr. McKee. “We should be involved in the decisions on how that building should be used,” he said. “It was built with an agreement that it was for the youth of Springs and the association.”
    Mr. Kelley reminded Mr. McKee that the S.Y.A. does not have a legal vote, and that there was not even reference to the association that he was aware of in the contract between the town and school.
    “We just feel we should be involved,” Mr. McKee said, also voicing concern about new walls going up to divide the space.
    When contacted yesterday, Theresa Quigley, an East Hampton Town Board member, confirmed that the town is in discussions with the school about using the building for additional classroom space.
    “We, as a town, have been looking at the demographics of the town by hamlet,” she said. “When the housing needs discussion group met, there were stark realizations that Springs bears the brunt of the year-round population, and that includes the school.”
    Supervisor Bill Wilkinson and Councilman Dominick Stanzione have been in discussions with the district superintendent since early this year, Mr. Stanzione said yesterday.
    “We want to do something to offset that inequity,” Ms. Quigley said. “We believe we can help the school by giving them the use of that building.”
    If more than 40 children are in the building for longer than two hours, there may be different state requirements regarding occupancy and the number of bathrooms and sinks required. But according to Mr. Hartner, there is just enough space for two classrooms, if a partition wall is erected.
    “I spoke to Michelle Miller [the S.Y.A. director of programs] two weeks ago, and she left smiling,” said Mr. Hartner yesterday. “And I don’t know who it benefits to say the school can’t use the building, which sits virtually idle during the school year.”
    Both Ms. Quigley and Mr. Hartner were quick to point out that the town and school district do not plan to oust anyone from the building.
    “I am in no way personally looking, in any way, to create problems for the people of Springs,” said Ms. Quigley. “We’re looking to serve Springs as a community.”
    “We want to cooperate with the Springs Youth Association,” said Mr. Hartner. “They do a service to the community. In fact, we would like to facilitate an increase in their programming.” He said the school may began using the building for classes as soon as this fall.
    On the phone yesterday, Mr. McKee emphasized that the S.Y.A. is a big supporter of the school, “and it’s about the kids.” He said that he had no objection to the school sharing the building, if necessary, but did not want the youth association to be shut out of it.
    On a lighter note, Mr. Kelley, with a smile on his face, made the signing of the tuition agreement his last act as Springs School Board president. Mr. Kelley called the contract “economic justice” after what he termed an “epic struggle” for the feeder districts.
    The agreement includes a payback to the Springs district and a five-year contract which promises that the tuition at Springs will never exceed 95 percent of the state’s Seneca Falls recommended tuition.
    Aside from the discussion of the youth association building, the evening was filled with standing ovations, gifts, and cake as Mr. Kelley and Thomas Talmage, another board member, sat at the table for the last time.