For the past several weeks, Mastic resident Joe May has been making the rounds, gathering petitions for a cause he supports: saving the Little Red School House.
Originally, the Mastics-Moriches-Shirley Community Library had planned to knock down the structure as part of their capital plan to renovate the library facility. It would have been replaced with a new building on the same land, which is on the site of the William Floyd School District.
On Friday, Oct. 11, the library board voted to move forward with a bond vote for a $26.7 million renovation plan. But they decided not to demolish the schoolhouse, and will dedicate $1 million of the $2 million projected renovation cost if the bond passes a vote.
“I think it’s a great move that the library did what they did,” said May.
The Little Red School House — originally the Moriches Grammar School — had been operational since the 1920s, used for students K-8, through 1952, according to the Mastic Peninsula Historical Society. Residents who attended the school when it was still operational have responded with memories of their time there. Colonial Youth & Family Services currently occupies the building, providing childcare and daycare services.
“One of the many benefits of the passage of our proposed December 10 bond vote will be the preservation and restoration of the Little Red School House,“ said Board President Joseph Maiorana. “After numerous discussions with our community partners, including civic leaders, the library has committed a portion of our funding to be used to restore the Little Red School House.”
The building is owned by the William Floyd School District, and a district spokesman said they would be willing to give the building over to the library, as it is at the end of its “useful life.” The district explored renovating the building in 2016; to bring it up to a suitable standard with additional classrooms would have cost an estimated $15 million.
“As the Little Red School House nears the end of its useful life, preserving and repairing it would require a substantial investment of several million dollars of taxpayer funds,” the district said in a statement released by spokesman James Montalto. “This course of action would not be fiscally prudent as we do not have any long-term viable use for the schoolhouse, nor do we need the classroom space. As responsible stewards of the community’s resources, we cannot recommend doing that. We understand that the building holds special memories for some, but that alone doesn’t qualify it as historic.”
May’s first goal of stopping the Little Red Schoolhouse from being torn down was successful for now, but he would still like to see it become a historical landmark in the Town of Brookhaven. Representatives from the town did not respond to requests for comment by press time.