District Voters Approve Stella Maris Purchase

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stella marisBy Kathryn G. Menu

Sag Harbor School District voters on Tuesday approved a $10.23 million bond to purchase and upgrade the former Stella Maris property on Division Street by a margin of 736 to 595. The approval provides funding for the district to purchase the property, bring the building up to state education standards and use it for programming, including the creation of full-day services for pre-kindergarten students, and expanded special education services.

Residents also came out en masse to support the school district’s $38.77 million budget by a vote of 997 to 328, which represents the largest percentage of voters in favor of a budget in over a decade with 75.2 percent in favor of the spending plan.

According to Sag Harbor School District Clerk Mary Adamcyzk, a total of 1,340 voters weighed in on the budget vote and board of education election — 1,295 at the polls and an additional 45 through absentee ballots. That is the highest turnout of the district’s roughly 5,400 registered voters since 2011, when 1,615 turned out to vote. Only 966 residents weighed in on the budget last year.

“Thank you Sag Harbor Schools’ community for your support and dedication to our school district,” Superintendent Katy Graves said in a written statement following the vote. “The passing of the 2016-2017 budget will allow the district to continue the strong academic programming for our students and enhance instructional services offered to every student. Also, thank you to our Board of Education for their hard work and vision for our children’s future.”

“I am so pleased the board of education decided to bring this to the community,” Ms. Graves said after the results of the budget vote and Stella Maris proposition were announced, earning shrieks of joy from the small crowd of residents gathered in the Pierson High School gymnasium. “I think this was very important and this will change the landscape of the Sag Harbor community, and the Sag Harbor schools. And the best is yet to come.”

On Wednesday morning, Ms. Graves said she had spoken to Father Peter Devaraj of St. Andrew Roman Catholic Church about the vote. The 34,300 square-foot former Catholic School — once the oldest on Long Island before it shuttered its doors in 2011 — is owned by the Diocese of Rockville Centre, which has given control of the sale to the St. Andrew Parrish.

The district will now purchase the property for $3.3 million. The remaining $6.3 million in funding will be used to upgrade the facility to meet state education standards, and $595,678 to ready the space for programming.

Ms. Graves said school district attorneys from the Nesconset-based Law Offices of Thomas M. Volz have been in touch with the Catholic Church to get a process started that moves the district and the church towards an official closing date, which is yet to be determined.

Ms. Graves on Wednesday said the district will move forward with plans to operate its pre-kindergarten program in the space, and will contract with an outside agency to provide full-day daycare services as well. The district will also use the building for early intervention special education services, and will move some administrative offices from the middle school wing of Pierson Middle-High School into the former Stella Maris School space. That shift would allow the district to provide a dedicated middle school wing at Pierson, as well as a green science center focused on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) programming.

However, Ms. Graves said the space could be used for other kinds of programming as well.

“There will be opportunities for our senior citizens, for continuing education for adults — there are not limitations being placed on this property,” she said.

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