Springs School Gearing Up for Bond Vote

December vote expected on long-awaited $17.9 million expansion plan

According to an informal survey conducted by the Springs School District, its students endure especially cramped quarters when compared to those attending neighboring schools. According to a report on the survey, which was presented during a school board meeting on Monday, each of its current 743 students receives approximately 84.4 square feet of space. By comparison, each middle schooler in East Hampton has 293 square feet, while every Amagansett student enjoys 396 square feet of real estate.

The news was no surprise, as overcrowding in the Springs School is well documented and much discussed, as well as the driving reason behind the district’s building expansion plan, which first surfaced as early as 1999. It is not simply a matter of elbowroom, as the school’s principal, Eric Casale, explained on Monday, but a matter of safety and compliance with state standards. As enrollment numbers continue to rise, the principal said the school is constantly forced to push the limits.

Mr. Casale, Christine Cleary, the assistant principal, and Kevin Walsh, a representative of BBS Architects and Engineers, which is designing the expansion, made Monday’s PowerPoint presentation. Its purpose was to illuminate the problematic student-to-square-footage ratio and, moreover, to introduce the school board and the public to the sum of $17.9 million, which is the projected cost of the capital improvement project. A bond referendum, seeking voter approval of that figure, is to be scheduled in early December.

In actuality, the bottom line of the latest expansion plan was $22,963,298, Mr. Casale said, but the school has approximately $5 million in reserve, which it would use toward the total. For Springs homeowners, the cost of the expansion is estimated to mean an approximate $172 increase in annual taxes for houses assessed at $600,000, a $230 increase for those assessed at $800,000, and $288 for those around $1 million.

Mr. Casale pointed out that the $17-million-plus figure could be reduced in the future if the school receives a water quality improvement grant it has applied for to cover the expense of installing a state-of-the-art, nitrogen-reducing septic system, as well as state aid. The principal also said the district would welcome private donations, adding with some levity, “We’re not averse to naming the gym after you if you’d like to donate.”

At the meeting, Mr. Walsh, of BBS Architects, reviewed the construction details, which included infrastructure upgrades such as replacing roofs and windows, as well as the installation of the new, eco-friendly septic system. Seven additional classrooms are slated to be built and a new gymnasium with lockers and 250 bleacher seats. There would be 17 small group instructional spaces added, each of approximately 330 square feet, which would be a massive improvement from the current nine cramped spaces in the school, Mr. Walsh said. Additionally, new science and technology rooms would be constructed, while the art and music rooms would be renovated.

Outdoors, larger multi-purpose playing fields would be built, vehicle entry for drop-offs and pickups would be reconfigured to allow a smoother flow of traffic, and 190 parking spaces would become available.

The expansion would add approximately 23,800 square feet to the institution. With the school’s projected enrollment in 2022-23 listed as 795, the added space would translate to approximately 122 square feet per pupil, about 40 square feet more than students have now.

A cafeteria was not in the expansion plan as the school believes it will be too costly to build and maintain.

Mr. Casale urged the public to go to the Springs School website to watch the presentation. There also will be a community forum at the school on Saturday, Oct. 7, at 10 a.m. The board is scheduled to pass a resolution on Oct. 16 for the referendum in early December. It is hoped that construction will begin in July 2019.