The owner of a local dance studio and the parents of several of her clients attended last Wednesday’s Southold school board meeting to ask why the business isn’t allowed to use the high school auditorium for its annual dance recital.
Inspire Dance Centre owner Meagan Loring said this is the third consecutive year the studio has been unable to use space in its home school district, being forced instead to travel to Riverhead School District facilities the previous two years.
“This is a small, local community of amazing kids and I think you would all agree with me when I say I think these children should have the same opportunity and quality of life as children farther west have available to them,” Ms. Loring told the board.
Superintendent David Gamberg explained that because Inspire Dance Centre is a for-profit business, it must meet requirements mandated by state law when renting space, such as having attorneys for the district create a lease agreement based off the fair-market value of the property.
Mr. Gamberg explained that when nonprofit organizations such as the Boy Scouts or Southold Democrats rent district space, they pay a fee that covers just a handful of small expenses. For-profit organizations can use the space, he said, but they’re charged a larger fee.
The real issue, he said, is when for-profit organizations such as Inspire Dance Centre sell tickets at the door.
“Under New York State law, publicly funded taxpayer facilities have to establish a lease agreement with the interested party,” Mr. Gamberg said.
“I have no doubt whatsoever you go above and beyond to leave any place you work in better shape than you found it, so that’s really not the issue,” he added. “There was never a supposition that you would leave it a mess and therefore we don’t want it.”
Mr. Gamberg said Ms. Loring could get around the state law by not selling tickets to the recital. She could also commit to a lease agreement with the district. A third option is to have the event be sponsored by the Parent Teacher Association, a nonprofit entity.
Ultimately, no decision was reached at last week’s meeting, but school officials said they will continue to work toward a solution.
“Hopefully we can work something out so that everyone can use the facilities here without it being too complicated or too expensive,” school board member John Crean said.
Photo: Meagan Loring, owner of Inspire Dance Centre in Southold, has been trying to host her annual recital in the Southold school’s auditorium. (Credit: Nicole Smith)