Solidly Middle Class and Here to Stay

East Hampton High won’t look like it did when her parents went there
Abby and Adam Chapman met in high school here and now their four children, Alyse, Aurora, Olivia, and Joshua, are all attending East Hampton schools, with Olivia set to “graduate from kindergarten” next month. Durell Godfrey

For Olivia Chapman, the pink persists.

Last August, nearing the end of a long summer day and partly out of boredom, the four Chapman children assembled in their kitchen and promptly started dying portions of their hair bright pink.

Though the color has since washed out (or grown out) of her siblings’ hair, Olivia, 5, the youngest, still has two pink streaks running through her wavy, white-blonde hair.

The family of six, who identifies as solidly middle class, lives in a four-bedroom house in East Hampton. Olivia’s mother, Abby Chapman, 33, works as a secretary. Her father, Adam Chapman, 37, is an electrician. Aurora is 12, Alyse is 10, and Joshua is 8. Aurora attends East Hampton Middle School. The three youngest siblings all attend the John M. Marshall Elementary School.

On both sides of the family ties to East Hampton stretch back several generations, or “since the dirt was laid down,” according to Ms. Chapman. Similarly, East Hampton graduates — and a love of all things Bonacker and maroon and gray — date back to the early 1900s, if not earlier.

In less than a generation, East Hampton’s year-round population has undergone a huge transformation. As such, the East Hampton High School that Ms. Chapman graduated from in 1999 comprised a far different demographic than the one her four children will attend.

In the 1998-99 school year, according to East Hampton High School’s New York State Report Card, 1.5 percent of students qualified for either a free or reduced-price lunch. By 2013-14, that figure had jumped to 26 percent. Over the same time period, the high school’s student population also underwent considerable change, going from 75 percent white in 1998-99 to 52 percent white in the last school year. By the 2013-14 school year high school enrollment was 41 percent Latino, 5 percent black, and 2 percent Asian.

Olivia is one of 18 children in Kristen Tulp’s kindergarten class at John Marshall.

As the youngest of four children, Ms. Chapman describes Olivia as a “spitfire” and sees in her daughter a fierce determination. “Overall, she’s a pretty good kid, though she can be a bit stubborn and opinionated,” said Ms. Chapman, who hopes to instill in each of her children the ability to distinguish right from wrong. “I just want them to be happy and be good human beings.”

One of three siblings, Ms. Chapman was born in Maine and moved to East Hampton at the age of 5, enrolling atJohn Marshall. Her mother worked as a police officer and later as an East Hampton Village dispatcher. When her parents divorced, her father moved back to Maine, helping to run a family-owned gas station and mini-mart.

Mr. Chapman, one of two siblings, grew up in Springs, first attending Springs School and later East Hampton High School, where he enrolled in a Board of Cooperative Educational Services trade school. Shortly after graduating, he started work as an electrician. Growing up, his father worked for East Hampton Village’s Highway Department and his mother cleaned houses and worked as a baby sitter.

At 16 and 20, the couple met through mutual friends. They started dating the following year and married in 2003 at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in East Hampton. All along, Ms. Chapman knew that she wanted to be a mother. “It was always a joke between us, that we would have two or four children, but that we weren’t going to have three,” she said.

Though housing prices continue to increase, the Chapman family has no plans to leave East Hampton — at least not anytime soon. “It’s nice to know the people and know the area,” said Ms. Chapman. Grandparents and cousins are a regular presence. “Better than picking up and starting over where you’re all by yourself. Especially when they’re little.”

In February, to celebrate the first 100 days of kindergarten, Ms. Tulp instructed each student to compile a poster of 100 different things. Olivia chose 100 heart-shaped stamps and stickers of various colors.

Outspoken and friendly, Olivia’s favorite part of the school day is when her teacher reads books aloud on the shared carpet. She wants to be a teacher when she grows up. Macaroni and cheese is her favorite thing to eat and Lilliana is still her best friend. Though she had previously been enrolled in karate, ballet, and tap, earlier this year, Olivia was taking a break, gearing up for T-ball practice this spring. All four children buy hot lunches at school each day.

At home, Olivia goes by Liv, or one of half a dozen other nicknames. She and Aurora, the eldest, share a bedroom. According to Ms. Chapman, both girls are strong-willed and possess strikingly similar temperaments.

In late January, Olivia’s grandmother, Faye Maxey, a retired East Hampton Village dispatcher, died at Southampton Hospital. She was 66.

Though her older siblings had already experienced death, having previously lost their great-grandfather, Ms. Maxey was the first significant loss that Olivia can remember.

The idea that someone isn’t coming back is a lot to wrap your head around, especially when you’re 5. Still, the permanence of her absence is slowly sinking in, with Olivia missing their sleepovers and shared love of arts and crafts around the kitchen table.

During February’s weeklong recess, the family escaped the snow and the ice by taking a trip to North Carolina. They toured the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte before returning home.

In her 5-year-old mind, Olivia sees weeklong breaks from school as “way too long.” After break one day, when Ms. Chapman picked her up from Project Most, the after-school program that runs until 6 p.m., Olivia was happy to be immersed again in her usual routines. “I finally saw all of my friends,” Olivia said to her mother, beaming. “I’m so happy to be back at school.”