Last summer, as Bridgehampton Superintendent of Schools Robert Hauser contemplated what the school year would bring in terms of the number of students expected back in the classroom, he thought he might have a wild card in an otherwise slim hand: With a little luck, the district’s 35,000-square-foot addition, which will add a new gymnasium, cafeteria, and nine new classrooms, might be ready by mid-October.
If so, that would have freed up sufficient space to allow the district to provide in-person schooling for nearly all of its 220 students.
But after a meeting early Tuesday, September 29, with architects and contractors, Mr. Hauser said it was time to accept the inevitable and fold on that rosy projection. The building, he said, will not likely be ready until January, and a hybrid schedule will be continued at least through Christmas.
That was borne out later that day when he led a brief tour of the new addition, which remains in that in-between phase of looking more like a construction project than a finished product.
The $29 million expansion was in line to be completed by October until the coronavirus pandemic forced the district to shut down the project for six weeks in April, Mr. Hauser said.
“Lots of things were in our favor, but unfortunately they were just not able to catch up from the six weeks that they lost,” he said of the summer push to make up for the lost time. Part of the problem, he said, was that it took contractors another three weeks after the shutdown to get up to speed because it was difficult to entice workers to return to the job site as New York’s infection rate remained high.
The renovation begins in the heart of the 1930 main building, the undersized gymnasium, where the Killer Bees basketball teams piled up victories over the years. The space is now being divided roughly in half, into an auditorium and library. A second floor above the library will be used for computer labs and science, technology and math classes. Work in that section is being done at night because the main building is being used by students during the day.
The addition, which extends south from the existing building, is dominated by a full-size gymnasium, although it is currently piled high with construction materials. Likewise, the district’s first real cafeteria (It is currently using a converted kindergarten room for that purpose) is awaiting the arrival of stoves, plumbing fixtures, and other finishing touches.
On the second floor, new science rooms are taking shape. On the ground floor, there will be an approximately 4,000-square-foot fitness center that will be open to the public when school is not in session.
For now, though, the district continues to educate students in kindergarten through sixth grade in the classrooms in the main building and its temporary outbuildings. Students in prekindergarten and grades seven through 12 are being educated in live classes taught remotely.
The district is now exploring the possibility of renting three temporary buildings that would be pressed into service as space for teachers to prepare for their classes and as classrooms for individualized instruction for special education students. That would free up enough space in the main building to allow the district to bring students in seventh through 10th grade back to the campus, Mr. Hauser said.
Despite giving an estimated 75 tours of the facility over the course of the summer, Mr. Hauser said Bridgehampton’s enrollment had largely remained flat, as about 20 new students enrolled while an equal number left the district.