New alternative school will hold classes at East End Arts facility

KATHARINE SCHROEDER PHOTO | Front from left: Liz Casey Searl of Jamesport holding son Connor and Kathryn Casey Quigley holding baby Hannah. Rear from left: JP Meehan, his mom Patricia Eckardt holding son Jack Meehan.

The North Fork moms who are organizing the alternative Peconic Community School have signed a one-year lease with East End Arts in downtown Riverhead to hold their first year’s classes in EEA’s Community School of the Arts.

The school plans to offer a multi-age class this fall for kindergarten through third-grade students and eventually will instruct students through eighth grade. The official deadline to enroll for the first year’s class is March 31, but it will likely be extended.

Liz Casey Searl and Kathryn Casey Quigley, who are sisters, and fellow parent Patricia Eckardt began brainstorming to create the school last summer.

Liz Searl is a drama teacher at the Community School of the Arts, which offers most of its classes and private music and art instruction during school vacations and after-school hours. East End Arts executive director Pat Snyder approached her about the space there when she heard the school was looking to lease in downtown Riverhead.

“I know what kind of teacher she is. I was aware of their philosophy on education and their interest in Riverhead,” Ms. Snyder said last week. “I have a background in education. I believe in what they believe. It seemed like a really good fit.”

Ms. Snyder said she supports the school’s founders’ belief in “multiple intelligences” and tying learning activities to the disparate learning styles of students.

“Their guiding principles are very much in line with East End Arts’ philosophy of creation and discovery,” she said. “I think it’ll be a great addition to downtown Riverhead. Their whole philosophy of utilizing the community for learning is important and it’s so relevant now.”

Ms. Searl said the school’s board was looking to locate in downtown Riverhead to provide access to the Long Island Science Center, the Long Island Aquarium, the Peconic River, the River & Roots Community Garden and other aspects of the Riverhead revitalization effort.

“East End Arts has always been our best option,” she said. “We’re both concerned about the arts and the community.

We thought it would benefit both of us.

“Downtown Riverhead will be our classroom,” she added. “We hope to be a part of that renaissance and help that along.”

Ms. Searl said Peconic Community School will use one of the main first-floor rooms in the Community School of the Arts, which is currently empty during the day, as its primary classroom and will also have access to the art classroom there. Ms. Snyder said the school will also have access to instruments in the building.

According to Ms. Searl, the school has definite commitments for four students to attend next year. They need at least eight to get the school off the ground and their maximum capacity for year one will be 15 students. Eventually, they expect to outgrow the East End Arts space.

Tuition is set officially at $10,000 per student, but Ms. Searl said the school is partnering with an outside aid company to offer a sliding scale that any family can afford.

“We want it to be in equitable proportion to the family’s financial picture,” she said.

The school planned to hire a teacher this weekend, and will release that teacher’s name this week.

They’re planning several informational sessions this spring, including a fundraiser picnic on Saturday, May 12, at Peconic Land Trust’s Charnews Farm in Southold. Called “Grow,” that event will include a seedling planting, art projects and a plant sale.

More information on Peconic Community School can be found at

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