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Feb 1, 2012 12:56 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Quogue Officials Say They Do Not Know Elementary School's Capacity

Feb 1, 2012 1:31 PM

An upcoming referendum regarding the proposed purchase of a 1-acre property located next door to the East Quogue Elementary School on Central Avenue, which could accommodate future expansion, has some taxpayers seeking answers to basic questions.

And the question topping many of their lists: How many students can the current K-6 school accommodate?

It turns out that the answer has eluded school officials, at least so far.

When pressed during recent Board of Education meetings, both East Quogue Superintendent Les Black and Principal Robert Long have stated that they do not know the answer, though Mr. Long said on Tuesday that the State Education Department is now looking into the matter. Members of the East Quogue Board of Education, including President Mario Cardaci, were also unable to answer the question during recent meetings. Mr. Black did not return calls this week.

Mr. Long said he expects to have an answer from the state in time for next week’s informational meeting on the proposed $400,000 acquisition, $250,000 of which would be spent to buy the property; the remaining $150,000 would be tapped to demolish a home on the land. The public hearing is set for Tuesday, February 7, beginning at 7:45 p.m., at the elementary school.

The referendum itself will be held on Tuesday, February 28. Registered voters in the school district can cast their ballots at the Central Avenue school between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. that day.

As of Wednesday morning, the elementary school’s current maximum capacity was still unknown. When reached last week, Tom Dunn, a representative of the State Education Department, said his office does not keep track of such data. “There are no educational capacities for schools, just building code limits,” he said during a phone interview last Friday. “The capacity of a school or classroom will never reach the ‘maximum’ allowed by code.”

When contacted again on Wednesday and told that his office had been asked to look into the matter for East Quogue administrators, Mr. Dunn wrote via email: “Code will limit the capacity of a building but the limits will be way above the range of numbers suitable for classroom learning. A classroom’s building code limit will be in the neighborhood of 50.”

He did not immediately respond to a question asking that he clarify whether or not the State Education Department was investigating the maximum capacity of East Quogue Elementary School.

When asked about the code limits on Friday, Mr. Dunn said either the school district or the local fire marshal should have access to that data.

Southampton Town Fire Marshal Cheryl Kraft said on Tuesday afternoon that her office does not keep such records for school buildings. She explained that her office only keeps tabs on rooms, such as cafeterias, gymnasiums and auditoriums, that can house more than 48 people at once. The only room at East Quogue that meets those requirements is the cafetorium, which can legally accommodate up to 97 people. She said that figure could go up if school officials utilize folding chairs in addition to bleachers, but she did not know how many people can be in the room at the same time.

“Schools are not nightclubs—we don’t have jurisdiction there,” Ms. Kraft said. “Even if they put 200 people in a room, we can’t go in and tell them they are over occupancy. We can’t do anything about it.”

Ms. Kraft added that it is the responsibility of the New York State Board of Education to set the limits on how many students and teachers can be in a room at any given time, and it is up to the state to enforce those limits.

What is known, at least as of Wednesday afternoon, was that East Quogue Elementary School currently boasts an enrollment of 434 students, down from 451 students in 2009, when expansion was first discussed. For the 2011-12 school year, the school has four kindergarten classes, three classes each for grades one through five, and four classes for the sixth grade.

Though he did not yet have an answer from the state, Mr. Long said Tuesday that the capacity numbers for schools can be misleading, because the figure is based on the number of students per class. He explained that a building’s maximum capacity often assumes that every classroom is accommodating 30 students—a situation that does not happen in East Quogue.

“With the capacity number we get from the State Education Department, it takes into account square footage and educational spaces,” Mr. Long said. “So it is our opinion that the number can be misleading, because we don’t have class sizes of 30 at this point.”

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Does Mr Black know how many classrooms there are in the school?
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Feb 1, 12 4:41 PM
1 member liked this comment
To many unanswersed questions in this printing. Let all go and hope the BOE has answers for the public questions Feb, 7th. at 7:45. . Who did the reporter question for this information? No matter what I and so many local town tax payers have spoken in favor to purchaseing the property, being mostly seniior citizens belonging to seveal town organizations. How one pulls the lever in the vote is the answer. Carol Combes
By Carol (109), East Quogue on Feb 1, 12 6:13 PM
I along with many others, who are also senior citizens and taxpayers, know which way we are going to "pull the lever." Logic dictates that would be a "NO" vote.
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Feb 1, 12 6:53 PM
1 member liked this comment
p. s. i really should not rush my spelling. Have a good laught. Carol
By Carol (109), East Quogue on Feb 1, 12 6:15 PM
The article makes Ms. Kraft look like an idiot who doesn't know her job is to protect the public. I am sure this is not so. No comment on the others.
By nellie (451), sag harbor on Feb 1, 12 6:24 PM
Kudos to the EQ School District for engaging in long term planning. This property is situated adjacent to the school property line and is being sold at a fraction of what the property is worth. Some often say that government does things in a "knee jerk reaction" kind of way, but now when the school looks at long term planning the same people are up in arms. This property has and remains an eyesore in this community. It would serve the entire community well if the structure is demolished and ...more
By JWS (1), East Quogue on Feb 1, 12 8:20 PM
Perhaps the former owners, who were senior citizens, lived on a limited income. Perhaps they struggled to pay the exorbitant taxes and were unable to maintain their home. Unlike some who work and make over $100,000 a year. As far as a steal, the property is $250,000 plus $150,000 for demolition which makes $400,000 for 3/4 of an acre of land with no house. Not such a steal or prime real estate. If you think it is I got a bridge I'd like to sell you.
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Feb 1, 12 9:03 PM
I cannot understand why it would cost $150,000. to clear this piece of property. It should take less than a day with a bulldozer and fill the hole in.. I still am a firm believer for the purchase of the property but am unhappy about this amount. to demollish it. Hopefully the BOE can answer this on Feb. 7th. at 7:45. Carol Combes
By Carol (109), East Quogue on Feb 2, 12 9:02 AM
The $150,000 is for: Hiring of an Architectural Firm for the demolition and costs associated with the SEQRA Study which must be conducted. The present owner should be required to pay for the cleanup, not the taxpayers of East Quogue..............that is why we are paying $400,000 for just under 3/4 of an acre. If in the SEQRA Study reveals any environmental issues the taxpayers will have to pick up the additional cost because we now own the property. Like I said before, this is not a great deal ...more
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Feb 2, 12 10:54 AM
Fire Marshal doesn't know the capacity of a school ? Really ? Joking, right ?
By lazymedic (100), southampton on Feb 2, 12 10:00 AM
The school district is paying $100,000 more than the land is worth. It would have been sold long ago if it was worth more.
By EastEnd68 (888), Westhampton on Feb 2, 12 6:45 PM
1 member liked this comment
You are saying we have to hire an architctural firm to demolish this house. What if it had no involvement with the school., is this an everyday rulilng? . My neighbors after a fire hired a bulldozer compamn from Quogue. It took less than 6 hrs. to complete a two story building.. What is going on? Is this because it is for the school? I am still unhappy about this end of the deal...but not the purchasi of the property. Sound like it getting to be to many hands in the pot on this end. ...more
By Carol (109), East Quogue on Feb 2, 12 7:02 PM
The selection and approval of the architectural firm was done at the 11/15/11 BOE meeting by the Board of Education. The owners should be the ones to incur cleanup costs, not the taxpayer. I sound like a broken record, but this is not a great deal for the taxpayers. $400,000 is too much for this piece of property. Enough said.
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Feb 2, 12 7:48 PM
If it was a private home owner demolishing the home it would be much cheaper. Per NYS law schools are required to pay "Prevailing Wages" for construction which send the costs skyrocketing.
By Wagoneer (28), Southampton on Feb 3, 12 9:55 AM
Aren't they also required to consider at least (3) quotes, as well? I deal with schools mostly for my business, and only private institutions are allowed to make a purchase without accepting (3) quotes.
By The Royal 'We' (199), Southampton on Feb 7, 12 9:35 AM
Let's give the BOE a chance to speak fully on this. Two years ago when this property was offered for sale the asking price was $400,000. . Did this $400,000 than include the clean up and architectural study to be paid by the owners? Is this your opinion that the owners should pay or is it law? The sellers price now is $250,000 and removal, ect .is $150,000. Looks like either some jumbling around of nunbers or buying two years later is a super deal....Carol Combes
By Carol (109), East Quogue on Feb 3, 12 8:59 AM
1 member liked this comment