In June, jubilant members of the Bridgehampton School community gathered behind the district’s main building to ceremonially break ground on an ambitious 35,000-square-foot expansion plan. A month later, school board members had their pocket calculators out as they tried to figure out why bids for the proposed $24.7 million contract had come in too high.
On Thursday, September 6, school officials, their architects, engineers, and construction managers will hold a public forum to explain why the district needs an additional $4.7 million to complete the project. The forum will take place in the school gymnasium at 6 PM.
Voting on the funding request will take place from 2 to 8 PM in the school gym on Thursday, September 13.
This week Superintendent Robert Hauser said two sets of bids had come in above the budgeted amounts this summer. He laid the blame on a strong economy that is keeping contractors busy and their concerns about the impact tariffs on steel and other building materials will have on their bottom lines.
The initial $24.7 million budget was set two years ago. “Who would have thought the price per square foot would have gone from $400 to $525 in that time?” he said.
The request for additional funding factors in a contingency fee of 20 percent over the estimated $3.95 million estimated construction cost, Hauser said.
The building project calls for a number of new classrooms, a new library, and a new gymnasium and fitness center with new locker rooms.
As part of the project, the district will be able to eliminate a number of prefabricated buildings. Not only have the buildings been pressed into service far beyond their lifespans, but they also require students to move from building to building, which is frowned upon in today’s security-conscious age.
The project will also give the school a dedicated library space. Now, it uses a converted classroom for that purpose. Finally, the school’s famous gym, known as “The Hive,” is woefully undersized and its locker rooms substandard. As part of the renovation, the school will get a regulation size gym and auditorium space for school plays and concerts.
The Bridgehampton School, which serves children from pre-K through high school, remains small, but it has been growing. This year, Hauser said an additional 25 students have enrolled, bringing enrollment to about 225 students — the number planners predicted the school would reach several years down the road. Hauser said another 10 students could possibly enroll by the October 1 cutoff date.
Several factors have led to the increase in enrollment. Bishop McGann-Mercy High School, the only Catholic high school on the East End, announced it was closing earlier this year, and the Ross School announced the closing of its primary school campus on Butter Lane in Bridgehampton.
But Bridgehampton has also caught the eye of families who like its small size and ability to cater to the individual needs of students.
“Over the last 10 years, there really has been an effort to make the school a better place for students, staff, and the community,” Hauser said.
Plus, he added, although the school building is old — it was built in 1930 — it remains in excellent condition. “When people come to the school for the first time, there is a ‘wow’ factor,” he said. “This is a beautiful place.”