WEST ISLIP

School orgs show interest in Masera property

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At least two pre-kindergarten, grade school and nursery school organizations have expressed interest in leasing the Masera property with the West Islip School District.

At the April 8 school board meeting, board of education vice president Peter McCann said one of the groups approached the district shortly after the proposed sale of the property with Terwilliger & Bartone Properties LLC was rejected by the community in January. The other entity offers nursery and pre-kindergarten services.

Both organizations, seeking short-term leases, are being vetted based on what’s best for the community, McCann said.

Ideally, the district would keep the fields on the site accessible to the community, and the leaser would pay to maintain the property, McCann said. However, details have not yet been finalized.

“This is a work in progress, and we will share as those details become available,” McCann said. “We want to do what’s best in the interest of the students, the community and from the financial aspects.”

The Building and Grounds Committee, made up of board members, has been looking into organizing discussions with community members to determine the future of the property, McCann said.

Trustee Annmarie LaRosa echoed the sentiment and asked that the district organize a group of board and community members to discuss the property.

“At this time, I think it would be premature for this board to enter into any agreement with a tenant, leasing company, or anything of that nature without actually putting the community members in a room together and discussing it face-to-face,” LaRosa said.

Board president Steve Gellar said the discussions with the organizations are considered negotiations and cannot be disclosed to the public.

The district did not confirm the names of the entities interested in the property. However, East Northport-based The School House has confirmed they have been in negotiations with the district about the property.

Mimosa Jones Tunney, who founded nonprofit The School House a few years back with her husband, said the tuition-based school takes in grades pre-K through sixth grade and is currently limited to 140 students.

“In everything we do, the decision is made based on the child and what is best for them,” Jones Tunney said.

Each school is funded through a “host family” which donates money to start the school, Jones Tunney said.

Brightwaters resident Bill Haugland, whose two boys, age 4 and 6, attend The School House, has been in negotiations with the district about Masera since January. He would pledge the financial support for the site, he said.

“It’s our understanding that this community wanted it to remain an educational facility with park-like amenities and community benefits,” Haugland said. “This was a perfect storm, because that’s really what we are… We just want to give every individual, regardless of race or social background, the ability to be their own thinker. And I believe my kids are getting that; I’m seeing it firsthand.”

Originally, Haugland and The School House proposed to purchase the site for $2 million. After the district refused, Haugland proposed the site as a nine-year lease that he would pay to renovate, refurbish and maintain the property in lieu of rent.

After continued negotiations, the site is now being considered for a three-year lease. Any cost associated with the property would be included, as would costs associated with upgrading the building for the educational purposes with public access.

A rendering of the site shows The School House would refurbish the building with a fresh coat of paint, create shared soccer fields, a farm and greenhouse, surrounding green hedges near the building, and more.

West Islip resident Shawn Gallagher, who said he spoke with representatives from The School House about its vision, said he believes the property was intended to be used for education, compared to the previously considered senior housing units.

“I think people in this community spoke up and made it clear that any kind of big development is not something that people really want,” Gallagher said. “I don’t know if this is the right solution. I don’t know all of the particulars and details of it, and I don’t claim to – but I believe something should be done with it, and I believe this is a step in the right direction.”

When asked about the plans for the site, the district last week responded with the following statement: “The West Islip School District is exploring various options for the future of the Masera property and will continue to keep the community informed.”

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