Student attendance at the new $42 million Hampton Bays Middle School is expected to increase two-fold as of next Wednesday, September 3, when the school opens its doors to the district’s seventh- and eight-graders for the first time.
Last February, the school on Ponquogue Avenue officially opened its doors to the district’s fifth- and sixth-graders. But starting this Wednesday, the school will finally be used by all 600 students in grades five to eight.
Officials opted to move only the fifth- and sixth-graders, who were attending the adjacent elementary school, in February to help ease the transition process. Last year the school housed fewer than 300 of the district’s estimated 1,840 students, which includes those attending Hampton Bays High School.
The new middle school, which can accommodate up to 800 students, was needed to ease overcrowding in both the elementary and high schools.
Though the middle school is ready to reopen, several construction issues, such as the bubbling of floors both in and near the cafeteria, will not be fixed prior to the first day of school.
“We’re still having flooring issues, but it’s really isolated to the cafeteria and the hallways outside of the cafeteria,” said Larry Luce, the district’s business administrator. “The contractor is putting on a Band-Aid fix for now and they will come back during a break period.”
The flooring problem will not cost the district any more money as the repairs will be covered by the district’s contractors, Sayville-based Triton Construction. Mr. Luce added that besides the floors, the school is otherwise ready for students. “Everything else looks pretty good,” he said on Tuesday.
Starting in September, the school will offer several new programs, such as dance and movement, creative writing, and a current events course. “We’re embarking on something brand new,” said middle school principal Lars Clemensen of the new school’s curriculum. “It’s a unique 5-8 program.”
Mr. Clemensen explained that while the school opened in February, students were able to utilize only the classrooms because the other facilities, such as the cafeteria and gymnasium, were not quite finished. Last year, fifth- and sixth-graders in the middle school used the adjacent elementary school’s cafeteria during lunch periods and the gymnasium for physical education classes.
He added that all amenities in the new school will be available to students starting next month. “Everything is functioning and ready to go,” he said.
According to Joanne Loewenthal, superintendent of the Hampton Bays School District, the biggest hurdle to be cleared before the new school could open was coordinating transportation to the district’s three schools. For decades, Hampton Bays had only two schools and used the same transportation system for just as long.
Ms. Loewenthal added that she remained optimistic that the transportation system would soon run smoothly. “We have worked hard to make sure it will happen,” she said. “We ask everyone to be patient as we move through the first couple of days.”
Construction was completed earlier this year on the 138,000-square-foot, two-story middle school. The building, which took nearly two years to complete, houses more than two dozen classrooms, eight science labs, an 11,000-square-foot gymnasium and 4,000-square-foot cafetorium. The building has been touted as a “green” learning environment because of its certification as a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design school.