Southdown Primary School will welcome more than 300 students on Wednesday, September 5 and everything appears to be in place for a fantastic school year.
There will be many familiar faces around the building so returning students should feel right at home. The kindergarteners coming to the school for the first time will all receive a warm Southdown welcome. Parents have nothing to worry about and plenty to look forward to along with their children.
Southdown’s tradition dates to September 1954 when the school opened its doors for the first time. Carved out of land that once comprised part of a sprawling Gold Coast estate, the Southdown campus is located in one of the most gorgeous areas of the town. The school has produced spectacular students over the years along with award winning artists, musicians and athletes.
Southdown’s traditionally strong academic program will continue. There will be some new educational initiatives, too. There is plenty around the building to meet the personal interests of every student.
“Southdown School is ready for an outstanding 2018/19 campaign,” Principal Scott Oshrin said. “We are excited to display our expanded library and makerspace. Additional resources were ordered to support the new space. Students will have exposure to more STEM related opportunities in the makerspace.”
“A makerspace is a collaborative work space inside a school, library or separate public/private facility for making, learning, exploring and sharing that uses high tech to no tech tools,” according to Makerspaces.com. “These spaces are open to kids, adults and entrepreneurs and have a variety of maker equipment including 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC machines, soldering irons and even sewing machines. A makerspace however doesn’t need to include all of these machines or even any of them to be considered a makerspace. If you have cardboard, Legos and art supplies you’re in business. It’s more of the maker mindset of creating something out of nothing and exploring your own interests that’s at the core of a makerspace. These spaces are also helping to prepare those who need the critical 21st century skills in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. They provide hands on learning, help with critical thinking skills and even boost self-confidence. Some of the skills that are learned in a makerspace pertain to electronics, 3d printing, 3D modeling, coding, robotics and even woodworking.”
Southdown offers a superb education
Southdown has always provided its students with a superb education. Faculty and support staff members expect to do exactly that in 2018/19. If tradition holds true, within an hour of the start of the new school year, students will already have settled into their routines. It is amazing how quickly they adapt to a new teacher and new classmates and surroundings.
“I would like to thank the parents and families here at Southdown,” Mr. Oshrin said. “We are so lucky that you trust us with your children. I am incredibly fortunate to be the principal of Southdown. We are lucky to have the most talented, dedicated, and caring teachers and staff. I am looking forward to another successful school year.”
Mr. Oshrin has been Southdown’s principal since July 1, 2014. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology at Ithaca College in December 2004 and a Master of Science in elementary education at Dowling College in August 2006. He obtained state certification as an administrator through Stony Brook University in August 2012.
Prior to coming to Huntington, Mr. Oshrin served as assistant principal of Birch Elementary School in the Merrick School District for three years. He spent five years as a classroom teacher and as a math and reading academic intervention services teacher at James H. Vernon Elementary School in the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Central School District.
Mr. Oshrin was the principal of the 2012 summer special education program at Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School in Oyster Bay-East Norwich. He also served as the varsity tennis coach, JV boys’ basketball coach and seventh grade girls’ softball coach during his time in the district.
Earlier in his career, Mr. Oshrin worked as a second and sixth grade leave replacement teacher in Hauppauge at Pines Elementary School and Hauppauge Middle School.
Southdown “educates the whole child”
“Our shared mission at Southdown is to educate the whole child,” Mr. Oshrin said. “We focus on the social and emotional growth as well academic progress. I am excited to implement the district’s new social and emotional learning program, Sanford and Harmony. Teachers will receive extensive professional development and be provided time within their schedule to implement the program.”
The Sanford Harmony program “cultivates strong classroom relationships between all students,” according to an online overview. “The goal is to incorporate specialized teaching strategies into classroom activities; from preschool through sixth grade in an effort to reduce bullying and help develop the youth of today into tolerant, compassionate and caring adults for the future.”
Southdown School’s teachers will continue to use data to drive their instructional decisions in the classroom to help improve student achievement. “Community engagement has been our focus for many years now,” Mr. Oshrin said. “We want parents and the community involved in their child’s education. We will work tirelessly to increase parent engagement at Southdown.”
Southdown School history
When Huntington School Board members realized the district was nearing a desperate need for a school in its northwest corner, trustees lined up the purchase of an eight acre parcel carved from what was then known as the McKesson-Brown property, which featured vast open fields stretching from Southdown Road to the beach.
The district paid $38,000 for the land, which once formed a large tract surrounding George McKesson Brown’s 40-room mansion at Coindre Hall. Mr. Brown made his millions in the pharmaceutical industry. He lost much of it when the stock market crashed in 1929.
District officials found that two other schools would be needed to service the northeast and southwest areas, too. Sites for those schools were evaluated and selected and an architect was engaged to draw up plans for three virtually identical buildings that would soon be known as sister schools.
Construction of the three schools was pegged at $544,000 each, respectively. Along with the purchase prices of the land that would eventually be the sites of Southdown and Washington schools (the Flower Hill parcel was purchased earlier), district residents were asked to approve five separate propositions to fund construction and land acquisition. The propositions totaled $1.73 million.
A district meeting was called for Wednesday, June 17, 1953 at 8 p.m. in the auditorium of Robert K. Toaz Junior High School. It was there that residents gave the green light to proceed, approving all five proposals. Trustees gave a nod to final plans for the three schools in August 1953 and construction bids were accepted in the Village Green School auditorium on Thursday evening, September 25, 1953.
The district then sold bonds and had architectural drawings approved by officials in the State Education Department. When construction began on October 1, 1953 the building today called Southdown was known as Brown’s Road School. Before it opened the school board decided that new buildings north of 25A should be named after the area in which they were situated and the ones south of Main Street should be named in honor of presidents, thus Southdown, Flower Hill and Washington elementary schools were born.
The blueprint for what would become Southdown and its two sister schools called for 13 classrooms, a library, gym, cafeteria and office space. Capacity was pegged at 350 students spread across kindergarten through sixth grades. The kindergarten program at the time featured separate morning and afternoon half-day sections.
Frederic P. Wiedersum was Southdown’s architect and Paul J. Roche, Inc. served as the general contractor. Courter & Company, Inc. was the heating and ventilating contractor and Charles A. Mulligan served as the electrical contractor.
Although construction was not yet complete, the district began utilizing Southdown in September 1954 as 340 students packed 12 rooms, with the thirteenth room being used as a library.
Southdown was officially dedicated on September 18, 1954 with School Board President Richard McCormack presiding. An open house was held beginning at 1 p.m. with the public invited to tour the gleaming new structure. A formal ceremony was held at 4 p.m. after earlier ones the same day at Flower Hill (2 p.m.) and Washington (3 p.m.) School trustees and teachers were on hand to answer questions. Representatives of the district’s architectural firm and the contractors that built the structures were also present. District PTA organizations helped plan the ceremonies.
Less than four years later, the district again was straining under the weight of increased enrollment. A decision was made to build a large new wing onto Southdown and each of its sister schools. The new sections were unofficially referred to as upper grade wings. The three additions cost a grand total of $800,000. The last payment on that bond was made during the 1982/83 school year.
Southdown’s new wing was delayed by construction problems. When the 1958/59 school year opened, many classes were doubled up and others used the cafeteria and gym as classroom teaching stations. The new wing finally opened in December 1958. It brought the size of the structure to 39,600 square feet. Every inch was needed as Southdown’s enrollment that year totaled 550 students.
Southdown Elementary School was guided through those early years by Principal James J. Sherman, who stayed in the top spot for 15 years. The building has served the community well for more than six decades and is expected to continue doing so far into the future.