The “Facilities Study” of both Sag Harbor Elementary School and Pierson Middle/High School in the Sag Harbor school district is a compilation of different tasks that need to be completed at the schools in order to comply with current codes and standards. At their most recent monthly meeting, however, the district’s Long Range Planning Committee focused more on big-ticket items such as a new auditorium and parking.
If combined, those two projects alone could cost the district as much as $12.7 million — but that is if they include all the bells and whistles. Although the beginning of last Thursday’s meeting focused on parking, the majority of the time was spent discussing the new auditorium. The conversations on Thursday mirrored those of earlier meetings. This time, district architect Larry Salvesen prepared three plans for a new auditorium as requested by committee members during their October meeting.
The three different plans for the auditorium included a basic plan, an improved plan and then the complete plan — costing $900,000, $2 million, and $12 million, respectively. Salvesen explained that the most expensive plan would include the creation of a separate space in the courtyard area, adjacent to where the current auditorium is.
“The art [department] is looking for space,” Salvesen said, “If you added art where the current auditorium is, then the entire center of the building becomes the arts.”
During Thursday’s meeting, some committee members shared their personal feelings from music concerts and plays they have attended in recent weeks. Members of the committee, which is made up of teachers, administrators, parents and other community members, expressed frustration about the lack of air conditioning, ventilation, torn curtains and other issues in the current facility.
Pierson High School Principal Jeff Nichols said that because of the inadequacies of the facility, he schedules “moving up” ceremonies and other similar assemblies in the middle school gymnasium.
Further, members of the committee talked about the vinyl tile that makes up the floor, the risers and issues with the stage itself.
“Why are we are looking at the little details?” committee member and former chemistry and physics teacher Richard Gold asked. “It is such a big project that has such a big impact and I wonder if we should be talking about the dismal feeling of the facility or are we trying to create a place that will give excitement to the facility and the community — and bring possible income to the school?”
“It’s a weird time to say that the energy that can be created by pride and enthusiasm is something that can’t be seen in dollars and cents,” said Gold who also noted that he attended a play the week prior, and there was a contrast as to what was going on on-stage and the actual room it was taking place in.
“It was painful to me,” he said. “This is the center of the school and it’s a shame. It’s a question of motivation and not just economies.”
But others at the meeting had different concerns, and requested more information about the current use of the facility.
One committee member asked how many school-related performances happen in the auditorium, and noted that it seemed like a lot of money to spend on a facility that hosted three performances a year.
Nichols disagreed with that number, saying he hadn’t yet finished tallying up all the performances scheduled for the year, but added that it was more like 20 in a school year.
“Right now the situation is oppressive,” said Nichols. “You can’t enjoy it.”
Pierson art teacher Peter Solow added that the number of performances is misleading.
“You are talking just about the performances, but not utilization,” Solow said. “Right now there is no facility to be used for rehearsal, there is no space for sets and there is no other place for them to go. They are rehearsing in the auditorium, and there are a number of other uses for this space.”
Solow explained that the new space can be used for awards ceremonies and other events, which have been moved due to the failing HVAC system.
“Some of the performances had to be moved. It was too hot, we had to change it. People have fainted in there while watching performances,” Solow said.
The three different alternatives for the auditorium include both minor and major changes.
“Scheme A is small improvements,” Salvesen explained. “Scheme B has everything in A and a little more.”
Plan “C” is a proposal that puts the new auditorium in the court yard and could potentially create more space for additional classrooms and storage.
The arguments bounced back and forth on what a reasonable solution to the pending issue of building a new auditorium should be.
“No one is arguing that the space doesn’t work,” president of the school board Walter Wilcoxen said addressing Solow’s concerns.
“You could say generally it doesn’t work, but we should say that it is fundamentally inadequate if you don’t build storage,” Solow argued.
Questions also raised by members of the committee focused on the idea that the new space may be able to generate income for the school if it is rented out.
“The motivation should not be to make money off of this,” Solow said.
Wilcoxen told members of the committee that the “C” plan may be more of a long term goal.
“It may not be realistic, right now, but start thinking about it as a possibility,” he said.
But Nichols informed the members, “There is another issue, there is an immediacy.”
The other large project occupying the Long-Range Planning Committee is the issue of parking at both the elementary school and Pierson.
The committee members decided at a previous meeting that the lots at Jermain Avenue, Atlantic Avenue and Hampton Street should be reconfigured to allow for more spaces. At their last meeting, committee members asked Salvesen to create a new plan, this time allowing for even more spaces along Atlantic Avenue by moving the asphalt court closer to Clinton Street and utilizing empty, unused lawn area for an extension of the court additionally providing an extension of the parking lot.
At last week’s meeting, Salvesen showed his plans to move the court and extend the parking lot along with the price tag for each of the three proposed lots. For the lot on Atlantic Avenue it would add an additional 26 spaces and cost the district $340,000. The reconfigured lot off of Jermain Avenue has a $375,000 price tag and would add an additional 17 spaces. And the lot on Hampton Street would cost $320,000 and add 25 spaces — but none of these estimates included contingencies and fees, according to Salvesen.