Around and around an oval marked by orange cones, they whizzed by—counterclockwise.
Some roller skaters like Jacob Armus, a fifth-grader wearing in-line skates, went with the arm-pumping technique of a short-track speedskater. Seventh-graders Teddy Raffel and Sean Faron, meanwhile, displayed such speed and finesse that a photographer could capture them only as blurs.
Other Southampton Intermediate School students attending “Skate Night” last Friday, March 4, rolled around at a more leisurely pace, and plenty took their share of tumbles—though they were upright again in seconds flat.
“It’s my absolute favorite sport, more than football!” exclaimed Jacob, who said he got his first taste of the activity during an earlier Skate Night and has now taken to practicing his skating in his Water Mill driveway.
“It’s just fun,” added Sean. “It’s like riding a bike—except on eight wheels.”
The Leland Lane school cafeteria has been transformed into a roller-skating rink for the school’s fifth- through eighth-graders on occasion in years past. But this year, the skate nights have become more frequent, offering students a place to socialize with their classmates under adult supervision after school, while also raising money to fund future field trips, according to Roseann Gentile, a school secretary and organizer of the popular event.
Gabby Allam, a fifth-grader, skated gracefully around the cones on Friday evening.
“I like crashing into the walls, because they’re soft,” she said with a smile, referring to the room’s mat-paneled walls.
Gabby added that she enjoys mingling with her friends during skate nights and is proud of having learned to skate there.
“Basically, this is their social time, and it helps those who can’t afford the field trips,” Ms. Gentile explained at Friday’s event, while striding across the cafeteria-turned-skating rink so swiftly that she herself could have been on eight wheels. “More and more the kids have nothing to do.”
She said that more than 200 students showed up that evening—an impressive number considering that the school’s total enrollment is 406 students, according to the guidance office.
A $5 entry fee—collected at the door by Kristen Minter, a Spanish and computer teacher—grants children two hours of activity in an L-shaped hallway of the school, stretching from the cafeteria to the gymnasium, which she oversees. About five other staff members also serve as chaperones, and the event is open only to Southampton Intermediate School students.
National Junior Honor Society members distribute skates at no charge. Eighth grade honors students sitting around a table on Friday, monitoring the distribution of skates last week, said they count the hours helping out at skate nights toward their community service requirements.
Despite the name, however, skating is not the only option at skate nights. Many students simply exchange gossip and laughter over ice cream and Skittles, while others simply heed the lyrics of Willow Smith’s hit single “Whip My Hair,” while other National Junior Honor Society students played deejay. Over in the gymnasium, youths took turns shooting hoops and kicking around soccer balls.
Students interviewed at last week’s event described it as a welcome outlet for seeing their friends after the final school bell rings on Friday.
“I mostly just chill out and buy some chips and fruit snacks,” explained Dylan Elliston, a fifth-grader, toward the end of last week’s event.
His sister, Devyn, a seventh-grader, said she enjoys hanging out with her friends and exchanging the latest gossip. “Like, right now, we’re dealing with a problem,” she explained.
“What kind of problem?” a reporter asked.
“Relationship problems,” she replied.
At the end of the night, parents and guardians must pick up their children inside at entrance to the cafeteria, under the watchful eyes of Ms. Gentile.
Hannah Rayburn, a nanny, arrived to pick up Conor Gill, a seventh-grader, and his brother, Colby Gill, a fifth-grader.
“They absolutely love it,” Ms. Rayburn said, adding that she believes the events help keep kids from getting into trouble. “I know, even at this age, some kids do bad things,” she said.
The cafeteria will be transformed into a skating rink once again this Friday, March 11.