Southdown School Keeps Focus on Students

Southdown Primary School opened in September 1954.

November 4, 2016

Southdown Primary School faculty and paraprofessional staff members are pursuing their daily work with students in a typically professional manner. About 400 youngsters enrolled in grades K-4 are studying in the building this year and the group is working hard.

Principal Scott Oshrin said Southdown’s focus during 2016/17 has been discussed at both faculty and grade level meetings and everyone is onboard.

The focus includes:

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Scott Oshrin is Southdown School's principal.
1. To incorporate movement and physical fitness into our daily instructional plans. Professional development is ongoing and led by Southdown’s physical education teachers. Mr. Oshri has allocated building funds toward the purchase of equipment to support the school’s mission.
2. To continue tailoring instruction to meet the individual learning needs of every child in the building. 
3. Engaging parents in the learning process has always been a top priority at Southdown and that long tradition will continue. Teacher/math coach Joanne Cicio organized a night of learning and family fun at the school’s annual math night. Future events are on the horizon, including family fitness night.  

“The faculty and staff at Southdown are a special group of people,” Mr. Oshrin said. “Our team is comprised of professionals that are second to none. We are steadfast in our mission to provide a top notch education to every student in our care. It has been wonderful to see our dedicated staff hard at work each and every day with their students.” 

Southdown School History

When Huntington School Board members realized the district was nearing a desperate need for a school in its northwest corner, trustees embarked on 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.

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Aerial shot of Southdown School
after the new wing was completed in 1958.

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 five decades and is expected to continue doing so far into the future.