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Nov 10, 2015 11:56 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Sag Harbor School District Continues To Weigh Stella Maris Purchase

The Sag Harbor School District is considering its options for purchasing the former Stella Maris school.
Nov 10, 2015 11:56 AM

The former Stella Maris Regional School has been on the Sag Harbor School District’s radar ever since last year when it went on the market. After at least five executive sessions dedicated to real estate, the school board is almost ready to have talk to the public about the former Catholic school and what the district could gain by purchasing it, according to Superintendent Katy Graves.

District officials consulted BBS Architects, Landscape Architects and Engineers P.C. to outline a three-phase analysis of plans for a possible purchase.

Phase one would examine how the district would ensure that the $3.5 million property is safe. “So, if a school district were to take on the property, what would we have to do initially just to secure the property to make it buyable, secure and stable,” Ms. Graves explained last week after an executive session.

Phase two would explore how to bring the building up to State Department of Education standards if it were to continue to function as a school building. For instance, Ms. Graves said, it would need to be handicapped-accessible and have alarm systems to keep children and faculty safe.

“We did learn that we definitely have adequate classroom spaces for children,” Ms. Graves said. “That was a highlight.”

Phase three would be to talk with the community about the building’s potential uses—whether for educating special education students or even as a separate middle school—and the costs associated with those uses.

The board will speak with school administrators before it provides more information to the public. That could happen within the next 10 days, Ms. Graves said.

“They haven’t even seen this yet,” she said of administrators. “We want to share the same information with them and go through it, because that is the right thing to do—to have it looked at through an educational framework.”

At a board meeting last month, one parent, James Sanford, said he was not thrilled with the idea of a district purchase of Stella Maris, especially because he has not received any information.

Mr. Sanford cited such reasons as declining enrollment for his confusion regarding the district’s consideration of the Stella Maris property. “I am not aware of overcrowding in the school,” he said. “I would like to exercise a lot of caution here—my purpose here is not to voice an opinion but just to ask that the public dialogue really start on this topic.”

“We are not venture capitalists,” he said, adding that the district should not “buy it now and hope it works out later.” He told the board that an affinity for the building is not enough to justify its purchase with community funds.

Stella Maris is owned by the Diocese of Rockville Centre and has sat vacant since its doors closed in 2011 due to a decline in enrollment. It has been listed on the market by Douglas Elliman at $3.5 million and has been appraised at close to that asking price. If the district decides to go through with a purchase, it would be subject to a bond referendum.

Although it is clearly a school building already, “there are definitely costs associated,” Ms. Graves said. “We really need to wait and see what the community wants; they really need to weigh in.

“This kind of opportunity does not present itself every day,” she continued, “so it really needs to be examined.”

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Sag Harbor SD should focus on the merits of merging with the Bridgehampton School District if they need space for buildings, rather than go on a fishing expedition about purchasing the Stella Maris property. I know this is not a popular statement, but from a long term perspective it makes the most sense.
By Rickenbacker (255), Southampton on Nov 10, 15 2:08 PM
2 members liked this comment
This is being contemplated before the need is determined. Terrible waste of community tax funds. In light of declining enrollment & an absence of over crowding in the school, how can responsible school board members & school administrators even consider this.
By patriot50 (42), sag harbor on Nov 10, 15 6:44 PM
2 members liked this comment
Before we spend money on a real estate acquisition, how about this?

1. Move the middle high/school start times in line with what has been proven to be one of the most important factors in our children's education. (Yes, I know people are sick of hearing about it, but the evidence for it just keeps flooding in).
2. Stop taking our students out of school early to attend sporting events that are at times over an hour away,
3. Stop sending all of our teachers, who are also coaches, ...more
By Arnold Timer (321), Sag Harbor on Nov 10, 15 9:59 PM
1 member liked this comment
A few more thoughts:

SHSD already has a parking and traffic problem. Stella Maris has Zero parking. How will students and staff move between buildings in inclement weather? Where will additional staff park? Will we need more crossing guards/cross walks on the village's busiest street? What about snow? We have no municipal sidewalk clearing. Will we rely on the homeowners to clean up their sidewalks before school begins, or does the school pay for this (could be a nice windfall for ...more
By Arnold Timer (321), Sag Harbor on Nov 10, 15 10:10 PM
1 member liked this comment