Our Lady of the Hamptons school expanding

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Sister Kathryn Schlueter, principal of Our Lady of the Hamptons school in Southampton Village, should be having a quiet summer now that the K-8 elementary school is closed. But, she said Wednesday, she is so excited it's hard to keep still.

She keeps going out behind the building, to the spot where a backhoe has started digging a trench -- the start of a $3.6-million expansion that will add a gym and four classrooms.

"I keep trying to take different pictures of the same hole," Sister Kathy told about a dozen donors who had been invited to the school for lunch.

At a time when religious school closings are more common, it's a cause for happiness when an expansion is in the works. For the school, it's a shared joy, since the 350-student school is actually supported by three separate parishes.

It took some architectural juggling to get the two-story addition to fit onto the property -- a small parcel had to be purchased to do it -- and while the school has raised enough money to build its gym, the new classrooms will not immediately be equipped and put into use to help save on costs.

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Our Lady of the Hamptons was built in 1960 after three separate parishes concluded that declining enrollments and rising costs made it too difficult to maintain their own parochial schools.

Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary R.C. Church in Southampton, The Church of St. Rosalie in Hampton Bays and Our Lady of Poland Church, which is next to the school, all joined to support the new school, whose pre-K program is in a separate building.

Donor Paula Dessel was on the original school board of Our Lady of the Hamptons. "There was a little concern that the school might close, but it's still going strong," she said Wednesday. "You just water it and it grows."

Work began July 1. So far, construction has been limited to putting up a fence and digging the foundation.

"He [the contractor] said he'd be done by March 1," Sister Kathy said. "If we're in it by next September, we'll be very happy."

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