When the school year begins on September 17, the Ross School will once again be operating on two campuses, as it reopens it Bridgehampton campus, after a two-year hiatus while the property sat on the market.
Andi O’Hearn, the school’s head of advancement and operations, said in an email earlier this week that Lower School students will be returning to Bridgehampton for the 2020-21 school year not only “because enrollment is way up,” but also because of the space the campus affords them during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like so many schools on the South Fork, the Ross School has seen an increase in new students as families decided not to return to New York City because of uncertainties with the virus, but also the increase in crime.
Ross’ biggest growth is in the elementary school, from nursery to sixth grades. “We are projecting the grades N-6 have more than doubled for next year,” O’Hearn said, going from 75 to 150 students with one less grade as Ross is not offering a pre-nursery program this year.
On Bridgehampton campus on Butter Lane, there are five buildings with more than 43,000 square feet of space. Each classroom has a private bathroom and opens to the outdoors, she said, “allowing us to keep the children and the faculty isolated in pods. They will not even cross in the hallways.”
The Field House alone has a 13,100-square-foot gymnasium. There is also a pool. The grounds used to have a petting zoo, multiple play areas and an organic garden.
The 8.32-acre property is the former home to the Hampton Day School, then later became the Morris Center, before a merger with the Ross School in 2006. It was used as Ross’ Lower School campus until the end of the 2017-18 school year, when the school moved back entirely to its central campus on Goodfriend Drive in East Hampton.
In early 2019, the property was publicly listed with Compass Real Estate for $9.95 million. It was most recently listed for just under $7 million.
While the overall population grew from 371 to 414, the boarding student population has decreassed. O’Hearn said the enrollment figures are lower than normal. “Last year we had 154 boarders but we are only projecting about 110 boarders for next year,” she said.
A large portion of the students came from China and Brazil. “We are hopeful that the President will lift the ban on F1 visa holders from China and Brazil. If he does not — then we will have fewer boarders,” she explained.
Some boarding school students may attend classes online during the first trimester, and then be able to rejoin as boarders for in-person classes during the second and third trimesters, O’Hearn added.
In the meantime, Ross School staff is preparing to welcome students back full-time to both campuses, with a plan to use outdoor classrooms and tents as much as possible. Tents were used during camp programs this summer.
However, there will be an online component, as well. “We expect to pivot quickly if needed,” she said.