A handful of students from the Springs School District are poised to attend high school at Pierson Middle-High School and the Bridgehampton School this fall following a successful referendum in Springs this May that allows parents to send their high school aged children to schools other than the East Hampton High School.
High school students from Amagansett, Montauk, Sagaponack, Springs and Wainscott school districts have traditionally all attended East Hampton High School, but this year, in the face of mounting tuition costs, the districts have begun discussions about consolidation and choice. Tuition to send students to East Hampton High School is nearing $30,000 per student, per year, whereas the cost to send students to Pierson and Bridgehampton is far less.
At a Bridgehampton Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, July 28 that board signed a tuition contract for Springs School students after Bridgehampton Principal Jack Pryor announced three students from that district will definitely attend Bridgehampton this fall.
According to school board president Nicki Hemby, the tuition agreement will allow Springs high school students to attend Bridgehampton for $15,000 in the 2010-2011 school year, $17,500 for the 2011-2012 school year, $20,000 in the 2012-2013 school year and $22,500 in the 2013-2014 school year.
The Springs School District will have to use the New York State Education Department’s Seneca Galls formula to calculate tuition for any Springs student with special education needs that would like to attend high school at Bridgehampton.
According to Hemby, Bridgehampton has agreed to accept a maximum of six students per grade level from Springs, and enrollment remains open.
On Tuesday, Sag Harbor School District Dr. John Gratto and Pierson Middle-High School Principal Jeff Nichols confirmed they also have three or four students from Springs interested in attending high school in Sag Harbor.
According to nonresident tuition rates established by that school district’s board of education, the tuition rate for Springs high school students to attend Pierson is $21,080. While there is no expiration on that tuition rate, Dr. Gratto said on Tuesday the board of education has reserved the right to raise that rate by up to 2.5 percent.
He added this year, all incoming students from Springs will be freshmen, and therefore will not affect class size. Gratto said per grade, without affecting services or requiring more teachers, Pierson can absorb roughly 10 Springs students per high school grade.
Nichols said he and Gratto made two presentations to board members and parents from Springs School in an effort to attract students to Sag Harbor.
“We had probably about six to 10 different families visit and tour the school,” said Nichols, who added convincing parents to take such a big leap, moving their children into a new school district, and largely away from the peer group they have attended elementary and middle school with could be a tough sell; but as students attending Pierson return to Springs with positive experiences, it will become an easier task.
Bridgehampton is seeing a diverse group of Springs residents coming into their high school this fall, according to Pryor. One is a freshman, another is a student who has already attended East Hampton High School and the last is a Springs resident who has been a student at the Hayground School and will not complete high school at Bridgehampton.
Pryor gave credit to Springs School Superintendent Mike Hartner for opening up the dialogue about choice in the regional education system.
“Congratulations to him for understanding that choice is something we have to look at,” said Pryor.
Like Nichols, Pryor said he expects interest in Bridgehampton from Springs students will increase as time goes on, and he expects a second round of tours and visits from interested parents as the school year approaches.
“Historically, there is a lot of movement after August 15 as far as people wanting to register for school in the fall,” he said.
“This is a very positive opportunity for all districts,” agreed Hemby. “Children learn differently in different settings. It is a refreshing option for parents on all fronts.”
Hemby added she believes Bridgehampton School is a “diamond in the rough,” offering individually focused education opportunities, which may be attractive for parents looking for a more intimate education for their children. “It is an excellent learning facility with hands-on teaching,” said Hemby. “We do not see our children as a “student body” but rather as individuals — individuals with strengths and weaknesses that are both acknowledged and strengthened.