The East Quogue School District is exploring the possibility of buying a 1-acre property next to its elementary school in case it might want to expand the school building in the future.
There are no immediate plans to add to the school, according to East Quogue Superintendent Les Black. But the district wants to keep its options open, he said, because space is tight.
“I would say it would be foolish on our part not to explore the possibility of purchasing the property,” he said.
At the School Board’s November 17 meeting, Mr. Black said he plans on meeting with the lawyer representing the property’s owner in the near future, in order to find out the asking price of the land and possibly begin negotiations. Mr. Black said he did not know the current asking price of the land, which sits just south of the Central Avenue elementary school and includes a vacant single-family house.
He declined to say how much money the district is willing to spend, citing the potential negotiations.
Mr. Black said he did not know the name of the property owner, and several real estate agents contacted this week said they are not listing the Central Avenue property.
According to Southampton Town tax records, the property was assessed at $563,300 for the 2008-09 fiscal year, $341,200 of which was the value of the land.
Last December, the school district commissioned a study by Dr. Jonathan Hughes of St. John’s University to determine whether or not it would have to expand the elementary school in the near future due to space issues there. In May, the study concluded that the district would not have to break ground on an expansion for at least another five years
Enrollment at the East Quogue Elementary School was 442 in October. Mr. Black said the school was operating close to maximum capacity, but he explained that the situation was not dire. If the district decided to expand the school, it would add more classrooms, he said, adding that the school is using all available classroom space right now.
The low prices in the current real estate market factored into the district’s decision to explore buying the property, Mr. Black said. If the school district negotiates a price, the proposed purchase would still have to be brought to the community for a vote.
Dr. Hughes previously stated that while the elementary school’s enrollment has increased over the past few years, it should now decrease each year, at a rate of about 12 students per year, before stabilizing at around 390 students in 2013. He said the drop-off is due primarily to a decline in local birth rates.
Al Algieri, who was president of the East Quogue Civic Association until he resigned during the group’s annual meeting on Saturday, said the Civic Association pitched the land purchase to the school about a year and a half ago. At the time, the land was valued at about $400,000, but he said it has gone up since then.
The Civic Association still supports the purchase, Mr. Algieri said, because the location of the land would allow workers to build an extension during the school year and then connect it to the elementary school during the summer vacation. Heavy construction usually cannot go on while school is in session, he said.
“It’s the easiest way and the most reasonable way to have an expansion,” said Mr. Algieri, who is still a member of the East Quogue Civic Association’s Board of Governors. “We’re still very much in favor of it.”