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Feb 26, 2014 12:57 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Tuttle Avenue School In Eastport Will Open Monday

Feb 26, 2014 12:57 PM

Students will lend a hand in cutting the ribbon on their brand new Tuttle Avenue School in Eastport on Thursday evening, marking the grand opening of the 60,000-square-foot building.

The estimated $26 million school, which officials said will likely be the first in the state to achieve the gold rating for its sustainable and environmentally friendly features, will be home to about 350 students in kindergarten through second grade, those who previously attended classes at the neighboring Eastport Elementary School. Beginning next week, that school will only serve students in grades three through six.

Parents, community members, students, faculty and local elected officials have all been invited attend the 6 p.m. ribbon cutting, which will be followed by an open house. Longtime Eastport South Manor Board of Education member Karen Kesnig, who has served on the board since before the Eastport and South Manor districts merged a decade ago, will have the honor of cutting the ribbon, along with second grade students.

“It’s great for the kids and the environmental factors make it even more exciting,” said Ms. Kesnig, who has served on the board for 17 years.

Schools Superintendent Mark Nocero explained that the district’s youngest students were taken on tours of their new building and their individual classrooms beginning on Wednesday.

“To see it with the kids was just perfect,” he said, explaining that his district’s young students were thrilled.

The new building features an abundance of natural light, bright colors conducive to learning, a shiny new playground and a sod field out back. But plenty of work still remains to be done before students step through the double doors for their first official day at the school on Monday. Workers from Triton Construction, based in Garden City, were busy completing finishing touches while teachers unpacked boxes earlier this week.

On Monday, with just a week to go before the opening, construction workers were out front on ladders, putting the finishing touches on the building’s facade. Inside, workers were painting trim, unloading boxes, nailing down the hardwood for the gymnasium floor, and arranging furniture in the library. Additionally, a section of the building’s exterior rear walls still had to be sided. Ground was broken on the school in the fall of 2012.

Mr. Nocero said he expects the work to be completed outside of school hours and over the next few weeks. “Right now, I would say we are 95 percent substantially complete,” he said.

He strolled through the new school’s halls on Monday, checking in on the teachers and admiring the building. Having played a role in planning every detail of the new school, from the color schemes to the materials used, he saw to it that everything was to his liking, down to the paint jobs on the door frames and the size of the paper towel holders in classrooms.

Mr. Nocero also pointed out the school’s modern features, such as lights that automatically dim depending on how much sun is entering through the windows, and the security cameras that can be monitored from the district’s junior-senior high school in Manorville. The district also boasts two other elementary schools: the South Street School, which is a K-2 school, and the Dayton Avenue School that serves kids in grades three through six.

“It is really remarkable,” Mr. Nocero said of the Tuttle Avenue School, his district’s fifth school. “I don’t know how else to describe it.”

The building will cost in the ballpark of $26 million to complete, though upward of 85 percent of that cost will be covered by financial aid, an incentive the state offered when the district consolidated in 2004. Tuttle Avenue is the district’s second new building in just over a decade; the junior-senior high school was completed in Manorville in 2003.

The new two-story school features approximately 20 classrooms, a circular library media center, and separate wings for each of the three grade levels.

For some teachers, the opening of the school will be an emotional event. Kindergarten teacher Annette Reeve has been teaching in the district’s portable classrooms outside the Eastport Elementary School for more than two decades. She marveled at her new classroom’s radiant floor heating.

“I’ve waited 25 years for a classroom,” she said, while setting up for her students on Monday. “We’re very excited.”

Debra Woloschin, another kindergarten teacher, said she loved the abundance of space in her new room, which also includes a child-sized sink and water fountain, a bathroom and brand new desks and chairs.

“This is a perfect kindergarten classroom,” she said, while sitting at her new desk. “I can’t wait until the kids see it.”

Her colleague, Lisa Wells, who spent close to 20 years teaching kindergarten in the portable classrooms, reacted with equal enthusiasm.

“I cried the first time I walked in this place,” she said. “These children are extremely lucky.”

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