Ross School Will Consolidate Lower School, Upper School Campuses

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The main administration building on the Ross Lower School campus on Butter Lane on Monday, 4/9/18. Michael Heller photo

The Ross School is planning to consolidate its two campuses by closing its Lower School location in Bridgehampton and moving its early childhood and elementary grades to the Upper School in Wainscott beginning in the 2018-19 school year.

The announcement came Friday night to parents of Ross School students via email from three of its top administrators, Andi O’Hearn, chief of student advancement, Bill O’Hearn, head of the high school, and Jeanette Tyndall, head of the lower and middle schools. A copy of the email was obtained by The Sag Harbor Express.

“We all know that education is much more about the relationships faculty, staff and students enjoy than it is about buildings, so despite the geographical change, the vision and mission of the school will remain unchanged,” the email read. “All our students will continue to enjoy a warm, welcoming atmosphere in a culture of kindness, respect and collaboration, and in an environment of academic innovation and success.”

Ross administrators could not be reached for comment.

In their email, the administrators said there will be some benefits to the consolidation, including younger students interacting with older students from other countries, which was previously difficult to achieve on a regular basis. Also, the administrators said, parents with children in both the Lower School and Upper School will have an easier time dropping their children off and picking them up each day.

Referencing the original vision of founder Courtney Ross as being “one school,” the email also states, “A single campus will allow us to leverage our resources and better plan for the long-term sustainability of Ross School.”

According to Southampton Town tax records, the 8.32-acre Lower School campus, located at 739 Butter Lane in Bridgehampton, was assessed in 2017 as having a total value of more than $10.1 million, though the school is exempt from property taxes. Southampton Planning Board records show the campus falls within a residential zoning district; a school representative said Wednesday there is an updated zoning analysis currently under way.

The effects of the Ross School’s consolidation will likely trickle down to neighboring public school districts, which by law are required to pay for busing, school nurse services and other services for children living within in their borders to attend private schools. Last year, for instance, the Bridgehampton School District — which has two private schools within its borders — received a total of $181,700 for school nurse services at the Ross Lower School and Hayground School, collected from 15 surrounding school districts whose children attended those schools.

The Wainscott Common School District, in whose boundaries the Upper School sits, anticipates some financial impact. “At this time it is too early to assess the impact of the closing of the Lower Ross School,” superintendent Deborah A. Haab said. “We do anticipate that there will be some impact; however in what areas and to what extent is unknown to us at this time.  Our budget process is nearly complete and without more information, it is difficult to assign a dollar amount for this situation.”

Bridgehampton superintendent Robert Hauser said Monday he is “in the process of gathering information in regards to this decision. This may have a financial impact on the Bridgehampton School District.”

East Hampton superintendent Richard Burns echoed his comments, saying his district would likely save on transportation without having to bus children to two Ross campuses. Sag Harbor superintendent Katy Graves did not respond to requests for comment.

The Ross School was established in 1991 at the home of its founder, Courtney Sale Ross. Its Upper School opened in 1992 and its Lower School campus, once home to the Hampton Day School, opened in 2006.

The Ross School is the second East End private school to announce a consolidation in the past month. In mid-March, the Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre announced it would consolidate St. Isidore School and Our Lady of Mercy Regional School into one kindergarten-through-eighth grade school as the St. John Paul II Regional School, which will be located at the St. Isidore campus in Riverhead. The Diocese is also closing Bishop McGann-Mercy High School.

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