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Covid and Housing on the School Board Agenda

Thu, 07/08/2021 - 08:44

Adam Fine, the East Hampton School District superintendent, announced that the district plans to return to pre-Covid norms when school reopens in September. Though New York State has not released new guidance, Mr. Fine said the Plexiglas barriers have been placed into storage at all three school buildings.

Whether masks will be mandated and whether there will be any remote-learning options at all are decisions the school board will make later this summer, Mr. Fine said. Children in East Hampton's summer school programs are still wearing masks at present.

"Right now, it's full steam ahead -- a normal opening," Mr. Fine said.

The school board also raised the issue of local affordable housing, or specifically, the lack thereof. The high cost of housing plus long commutes for staff who live west of here have driven away many teachers and administrators in recent years (though James Crenshaw, most recently the high school principal, specified that the commute was not a factor in his decision to leave).

"There are major recruitment and major department exodus issues. We are in a very difficult spot when it comes to hiring and retaining staff," Mr. Fine said. "The way things are going with the value of homes and what not, in 10 to 15 years we're going to be in a very, very difficult position. . . . It's something for this board to talk about."

"It was bad before [Covid]. It's much worse now," Mr. Foster said. "We know we need to do something, and I don't know what it is."

Board members called for the district to plan a forum, most likely in October, to come up with solutions to the problem in conjunction with local government officials and other stakeholders.

Jackie Lowey and Sarah Minardi, two school board members who work in the real estate business, agreed that there are few houses here priced under $1 million and that rental housing costs upward of $5,500 per month right now.

"We're not going to be able to build our way out of this. We have to look at creative solutions," Ms. Lowey said.


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