School Enrollment Up

At John Marshall, 29 students in some classes

    Rising enrollment at the John M. Marshall Elementary School had East Hampton School Board members and school administrators talking about possible solutions to overcrowded classrooms on Tuesday, but the board also considered suggestions about ways to trim the district budget and got an update on its upcoming superintendent search.
    “The numbers are going up and up and up,” said Jacqueline Lowey, a board member, speaking about elementary school enrollment. “What’s the limit? At what point do you cry ‘Uncle’? ”
    In just two years, enrollment at the school has climbed from 517 to 616 students, according to Christopher Tracey, the departing elementary school principal. “Kindergarten through third grade is usually 18 students or less,” Mr. Tracey said. “We are significantly above that.”
    The secondary issue, he said, was space. “There are two possible spots where classrooms could be placed,” but, he said, “We have several conundrums going on at the same time.”
    “It’s not a good situation,” added Keith Malsky, the middle school principal. “We’re running at 28 to 29 students in some classes.”
    “It’s bulging to the point of dysfunction,” Ms. Lowey said.
    The board agreed to examine converting a storage room and office space into classrooms.
    In a separate matter, the district’s citizens advisory committee suggested that the district look to facilities in another school building as a possible way to generate revenue.
    “The C.A.C. is looking at a two-pronged approach to the budget,” said Susan Naeve. “Especially in the area of cost-effectiveness of shared services. And two basic areas rose to the top.”
    One was food services. While the high school has a cafeteria and “this beautiful kitchen,” Ms. Naeve said, “Amagansett and Springs have no food.” The citizens committee proposed that East Hampton use its kitchen “to create good quality food” that could be offered for sale to the other districts. The board and Isabel Madison, the district’s business administrator, were excited by the prospect. “I’ve seen a centralized kitchen in another district, and I was very impressed,” Ms. Madison said, adding that the kitchen could become a cooperative venture.
    The committee also examined transportation costs. “The state requires that each district must transport its own students,” Ms. Naeve said. “But there might be a waiver for a regionalized approach, especially with the drop in state funding and the tax cap,” she said, referring to the state’s new 2-percent limit on property tax increases that will affect the district’s 2012-13 budget.
    Speaking of spending on a smaller scale, George Aman, a board member, said that he had enjoyed the high school production of “It’s a Wonderful Life” but was disappointed that the traditional senior citizens lunch that was held in past years prior to the Sunday matinee performance had not been held this year.
    Lawrence Roberts, director of the unified arts program, explained that there was less money in the budget this year and that what was there needed to be spent on students.
    “Maybe if the same situation arises, you could let us know,” said Laura Anker Grossman, the school board president. “It’s a great opportunity to get seniors out of the house around the holidays, and also to let them see our new building.”
    In other news, the board reported that it had hired the Eastern Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services to conduct its superintendent search.
    “The charge is zero dollars to the district,” Ms. Anker Grossman said. “We will have ancillary expenses, like advertising. But the cost is significantly smaller” than with any of the other firms the board had interviewed.
    Mr. Aman said that he had contacted other districts that had used BOCES to find superintendents, and that their impressions were “very positive,” he said.
    Also on Tuesday, Ms. Lowey suggested using a portion of the approximately $40,000 a year used to write, print, and mail the four issues of The Observer newsletter to create a better district Web site. “We have the worst Web presence of any East End school,” Ms. Lowey said. “It’s embarrassing.”
    “I’m not ready to let go of The Observer,” said Alison Anderson, another board member. “The seniors in the community love it.”