With the recent plunge in the temperature, some Springs students and staff members have taken to dressing in layers — indoors as well as out.
“I’d like to know what’s going on with the heat. Our kids are wearing coats. Teachers are layering up. My room is registering at 50 degrees,” said one teacher during Monday night’s school board meeting. “It’s cold, and we keep being told that they’re working on it. It’s a fair statement to ask to come to work every day and be comfortable.”
She declined to give her name after the meeting adjourned, saying she feared retaliation, but said students in her class had been shivering and that repeated requests for space heaters had gone unmet.
John Finello, the district superintendent, said an independent contractor has been working to fix the boilers. In a follow-up conversation on Tuesday, Elizabeth Mendelman, the board president, said a broken circulating pump was actually to blame. She was adamant that the heat would soon be running full force.
Zachary Cohen, who chairs the East Hampton Town nature preserve committee, spoke about opening up local trails and preserves as shortcuts and safety measures for students traveling to and from the school, while remarking that the idea was not without its challenges.
“Some of the members of the committee won’t go into the woods anymore,” said Mr. Cohen. “I’ve had Lyme disease three times. Others avoid the woods for six months of the year.”
But the challenges, said Mr. Cohen, were not insurmountable. He envisioned organizing hikes or bike rides home, with parents participating, and students walking or riding to collect their neighbors.
And if rehabilitating the trails fails to elicit much enthusiasm and support, Mr. Cohen said that another alternative would be to take some of the 20-acre Springs dog park and construct a loop where children could freely bicycle without fear of cars.
“When we first met as a team, we said it would be great, instead of having to build concrete sidewalks and curbing, to look at alternate ways of connecting kids to the school,” said Ms. Mendelman, referring to the Safe Routes to School committee. “It’s the beginning of looking at alternate ways of getting people to school, instead of children being on roads with no shoulders and no sidewalks.”
In other news, Mr. Finello said the school had recently conducted its annual lockdown drill. Eric Casale, the principal, updated the school’s enrollment numbers: Springs now enrolls 724 children in grades pre-K to 8, down two students.
Thomas Primiano, the treasurer, said the board had accepted the assessed valuation of $24.4 million from the office of the town assessor to establish the tax levy for the 2013-14 school year. The tax levy has been set at $23.3 million.
During public comments, Dennis Donatuti, a Springs resident and former East Hampton school administrator, cited a New York State Education Department regulation stipulating parent involvement in school-based planning and decision making.
“I think you need to open up a little bit more. It’s a concept that does not get greeted with a great deal of applause by administrators and board members,” said Mr. Donatuti, who ran unsuccessfully for the school board in 2012. “There’s less and less participation, less and less dialogue from the community. To me, it seems like you’re taking a step back from community involvement.”
In response, Mr. Casale said the school had recently made an increased effort to correspond with its Latino population, which now numbers more than half. “All of our correspondence and presentations go out in Spanish. Even our e-mail blasts go out in English and in Spanish.”
But Mr. Donatuti and another parent continued to make a case for a site-based management team, made up of parents who would help make decisions related to conduct policies, textbook selection, and use of technology, among others.