SOUTH SALEM, N.Y. – A 965-square-foot classroom in the former Lewisboro Elementary School will be converted into a “maker space” for STEAM learning following a unanimous approval by the Planning Board at its Aug. 14 meeting.
The school, located on Bouton Road in South Salem, was shuttered by the school board in 2014 due to declining enrollment.
MKR Lab (pronounced “maker”) will be operated by Sarah and Clark Landis, who have three children in the Katonah-Lewisboro School District.
Clark holds a master’s degree in computer science from Columbia University, a master’s degree in physics from Yale University and a bachelor’s degree in physics and math from Columbia University. Sarah is the head trader of a private hedge fund. She also is a certified yoga teacher and former webmaster.
The primary function of the lab, which is a for-profit benefit corporation, will be to provide STEAM learning (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics). Students in grades K-12 will learn about coding, robotics, app creation, game design, drones, 3-D printing, and more.
Sarah, the “chief” maker, said in a letter to the Planning Board that in anticipation of opening its new space, MKR Lab has offered one-off classes at DayDreamer Studio in Cross River. With its own space, she wrote, MKR could provide eight-week courses with additional workshops during school breaks.
MKR’s hours will be after school. Sarah said she anticipates holding two 90-minute sessions per evening: 4:30-6 and 6:15-7:45. At first, MKR will run only for two days per week.
“When we see demonstrated interest for more programming and when we are able to hire more instructors, we will look to expand that to more days per week,” she wrote.
She said MKR might also fill a void by providing weekend social opportunities for teens. The lease with the school district limits the hours of operation to between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. Sunday.
“Given our space, such [teen] events will be small and much smaller in impact to the surrounding neighbors than when the public school was open,” she wrote.
In the summer, she said, she will consider a half-day camp if there is interest.
“We think this might be a great option for teens who have aged out of town camp,” she wrote.
Though the board approved a special-use permit to allow the educational use in a residential zone, board member Janet Anderson questioned whether the board should put a timeframe on the permit’s approval.
“I guess I’m a little sensitive based on some of the other things that we’ve seen where people start worrying about traffic or about, I don’t know, crowd noise or robots roaming the yard or something, that maybe we should have just some kind of term where we have a chance to say, ‘How’s this going and do we want to put any conditions?’” Anderson said, noting that she supports the use.
Planning Board Chair Jerome Kerner said the school board will review the lease on a yearly basis, which, he said, was sufficient to review those types of concerns.
Landis said the school district would have “the ability to reclaim this building if they ever decided to reopen the school.”
Learn more about MKR Lab at mkrlab.org/classes.