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Photo Essay

Green school enriches students and the community

Hampton Bays Middle School in New York shares space with its neighbors
  • The Good Ground Community Garden at Hampton Bays Middle School is divided into a series of beds, shared between the elementary and middle schools, and individual and community group planters.
  • A community member teaches a lesson on wellness.
  • Students collect lettuce, tomatoes, herbs and other produce in the garden for school lunch ingredients. Another 500 pounds of produce is donated locally to a church food pantry.
  • Hampton Bays Middle School was designated LEED-certified in 2008 in part for providing energy efficiency and healthy teaching and learning practices.

A middle school in Hampton Bays Public Schools in New York has bridged the needs of its students and the community.

In fact, the community helped design Hampton Bays Middle School, which opened in 2008, on Long Island. The building can be used for town hall meetings and adult learning classes, and offers a community garden.

“We named this the ‘bridge’ concept,” says Roger P. Smith, the lead architect who helped administrators gather community input. “In our planning and design, we are bridging and integrating the educational, recreational, social and political needs of residents of all ages.”

When district officials in 2006 first discussed building a new school to accommodate increasing enrollment, they wanted the public to share certain areas—such as the gym, library, media center and cafeteria/auditorium spaces. But they installed security features to lock off those areas to protect the school’s 600 fifth- through eighth-graders, as well as staff members.

Designers also incorporated the history of the town into the design. A replica of the Shinnecock Bay Lighthouse, which was demolished in 1948, stands at the entrance to the school.

“One of the great things about the building is there is a clear feeling of ownership by the Hampton Bays community,” Superintendent Lars Clemensen says. “They have taken pride in the school, how it reflects their needs and its curb appeal.”

And in a town where residents get to vote on the district budget, a strong affinity for the school is reflected in approval rates that have grown from around 50 percent in the early 2000s to 76 percent for the most recent spending plan, he adds.

The school is also a 2012 Green Ribbon Schools Program winner and the first public school in New York to be certified by both LEED and the Collaborative for High Performance Schools, an organization that promotes student achievement through innovative building design.

A composting program is among many green technology components built into the school and its curriculum.

Plaques throughout the “living museum” school identify aspects of local ecology along with the building’s greenest features that include energy-saving technology.