By Cayla Bamberger
This fall, a Manhattan private school will open an East Hampton campus — a welcome development for families who fled New York City as the COVID-19 pandemic peaked and who hesitate to return.
Avenues Studio Hamptons, the latest outpost of the for-profit school Avenues: The World School, will offer flexible, individualized programs that merge remote and in-person education.
“Now more than ever, schools need to be adaptive to the unique needs of families,” Maggie Wollner, who will head the campus, wrote in an email. “The Studio was designed to provide a truly adaptive, learner-centered school experience.”
The outpost first opened enrollment to current Avenues students, and the majority of families in the campus’s initial year are from Avenues New York. It will serve 60 students this September and a maximum of 150 students going forward. The school is considering applicants for the fourth through 10th grades, and transfers from Avenues New York through the 12th grade.
Avenues Studio Hamptons will make its home on Hampton Country Day Camp’s grounds at 191 Buckskill Road. The site was selected for its indoor and outdoor spaces, which the school administration said lend themselves to learning and community events.
Although it caters to affluent families escaping New York City, the “Studio” campus has been in development for more than two years. Avenues also plans to continue operations on the East End after pandemic times.
“We hope from the outset to build close relationships and make meaningful contributions within the local Hamptons community,” Ms. Wollner said.
Avenues Studio Hamptons hopes to combine the perks of online learning with those of in-person education. Classes are virtual on a proprietary learning platform, but students still reap the benefits of a physical campus: community, collaboration, social-emotional learning and one-on-one advising. Avenues expects that most students will choose to be at the Studio for the length of a typical school day, but it is not a requirement.
Monday through Thursday, students spend two hours per day in online classes, two to four hours per day on coursework, and one hour of daily community time. Fridays are dedicated to individual studies, during which students and their mentors take on long-term projects in a subject of their choosing.
Annual tuition will be $48,000, which is about 15 percent less than the $56,400 price tag at Avenues New York. The school offers reduced tuition for families who make less than $320,000 annually and own assets valued at less than $1 million. At its lowest, tuition is $7,500 per year for a family with a household income of $50,000.
Avenues New York was established in 2012 by a group of private investors. Among the school’s notable students is the child of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise.
The “Studio” hub is the first of its kind from Avenues, alongside physical campuses in New York, São Paulo and Shenzhen, and a virtual campus, Avenues Online. Also for the first time this academic season, Avenues will dispatch full-time teachers to students’ homes, providing in-person instruction at $65,000 for the first child, and $45,000 for each additional child — up to five children from two families.
Ms. Wollner joined Avenues as a science teacher and head of the eighth grade in Avenues New York’s first year, and held leadership roles on the city campus and global team.
“We’re excited to offer a new type of school experience to families,” she said, “and look forward to serving the local community as a permanent campus for many years to come.”
Families Who Fled New York City Amid the Pandemic Seek East End Private Schools
Private schools have seen an influx of inquiries from New York City parents relocating to the East End.
At Hayground School, a progressive Bridgehampton school where 85 percent of the population is on financial aid, 40 to 50 new families from the city are applying for the fall. In more typical years, about half a dozen city families express interest, according to Marcelle Langendal, the school’s faculty chair.
Hayground also has the unusual benefit of a vast 13-acre campus, where each classroom has its own bathroom and entrance or exit — a boon in pandemic times.
Ms. Langendal has been impressed so far with the families applying, describing them as “down to earth” and “interested in the school for the right reasons.” Most applicants from the city come from progressive independent schools, like City & Country, Manhattan Country, Portfolio School and Little Red Schoolhouse.
Nearby at Ross School in East Hampton, more than 20 families relocating from New York City had already enrolled as of the last full week of June.
“We have contracts pending for more, and we expect to enroll more,” said Andi O’Hearn, the head of advancement and operations at Ross. In years past, about five families from the city enrolled annually. “This is definitely a substantial increase,” she added.
Broadly, inquiries for the month of May were the highest in Ross’s history. “I would say it was predominantly and clearly due to families moving out here and starting to really worry about the fall, and inquiring as to what Ross is about,” Ms. O’Hearn said.
Both Ms. Langendal and Ms. O’Hearn likened this admissions season to that after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. “This is a much greater amount of families interested in leaving the city,” Ms. Langendal said. However, as Ms. O’Hearn highlighted, the influx was fast and sudden in 2001, whereas today, “families are still holding hope that there will be a vaccine, and they’ll be able to go back to the city,” she said.
Admissions at both Hayground and Ross are rolling, and will continue until grades are filled. Ms. O’Hearn predicts that some elementary grades at Ross will close within the next couple weeks.
“New York City families have a really big fear their kids are falling behind, and don’t want to be online,” she said. “They’re hopeful — because we’re out in the Hamptons, not in as dense of an area as the city — that we have a better chance of being able to open in September.”