Breaking Ground to Sound of Cheers

Bridgehampton to get new gym, music and chorus rooms, and a better cafeteria
On Friday, state officials, members of the Bridgehampton School Board, administrators, and students celebrated the coming expansion of the school with a groundbreaking ceremony. Construction is to begin in about three weeks. Judy D’Mello

Students, faculty and staff, board members, state officials, parents, and residents gathered on Friday on the back lawn of the Bridgehampton School, the very spot that, roughly 18 months from now, will be covered by 35,440 square feet of brand-new school buildings.

“This is a ceremony for all those who made this happen,” Robert Hauser, the district superintendent, said at a groundbreaking event. Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. and State Senator Kenneth P. LaValle were present, as was Lois Favre, the recently retired superintendent, whom many credit for championing the project and shepherding it though community resistance and controversy. The crowd gathered under a giant tent as the school’s marimba band played and the fourth and fifth-grade chorus sang.

Although at times some residents were opposed to the school expansion because of the additional cost to taxpayers, no voices of dissent could be heard on Friday. 

Mr. Hauser announced each new facility the school will be able to take advantage of in 2020, and cheering, clapping, and joyous hollering followed. “We will have a new fitness center, so no more treadmills and weights on the stage,” he said. “Bridgehampton will finally have a new, regulation-sized gym. There’ll be a new music and chorus room, a bigger, better cafeteria, a new, huge library, locker rooms for our athletes, a new family and consumer science classroom with a kitchen, and no more portables.” 

The last item — several 40 and 50-year-old temporary buildings that sit adjacent to the parking lot and are used for music, prekindergarten, science, special education, and home economics classes — drew a particularly raucous round of applause.

It was in December 2016 when Bridgehampton voters approved the $24.7 million bond required for the construction project, which will more than double the building’s size when completed. Apart from a new roof, windows, and elevators, the building has seen no improvements since it was built in 1930. Meanwhile, enrollment has risen steadily, Mr. Hauser said, from 150 students seven years ago to the current 205.

He said the school will be the first public school on Long Island to have a geothermal heating and air-conditioning system, though Newsday reported in 2015 that the Valley Stream Elementary School was the first in the United States to test a new type of geothermal heating and cooling system. Bridgehampton is certainly the first on the South Fork to install this inexpensive, nonpolluting type of heating and cooling facilities. Springs and East Hampton are expected to follow in the near future.

Construction in Bridgehampton is scheduled to begin within three weeks, Mr. Hauser said. Of the anticipated result, “I like to say it will be bigger, better, and beautiful. The three Bs,” he said, alluding to the Killer Bees, the school’s mascot. Once completed, it will be one of the few schools in Suffolk County to house all 12 grades in one building.

Ms. Favre took to the podium and reminded everyone of her mission when she began the push for an expansion. “This school is surrounded by mansions,” she said. “These students deserve a mansion. Or, at least, a great school building.”

Ronald White, an alumnus and the president of the school board, told students and teachers, however, “that the apple tree is only as good as the fruit it bears. . . . We need to continue to raise the bar,” he said. “It’s go time for Bridgehampton!”

Members of the board, state officials, Ms. Favre, and two students then donned hard hats as they each scooped up a token shovelful of dirt.