After 64 years, one last day to play at Briarcliff

06/30/2014 2:00 PM |

A BIG CHANGE

In February, Shoreham-Wading River Superintendent Steven Cohen announced he was moving forward with a 2014-15 budget that didn’t include funding for Briarcliff. The school board is expected to vote Monday, June 30, to officially close the kindergarten and first-grade building and plans to relocate its students — along with second-graders from Wading River Elementary School — to Miller Avenue next year. Wading River Elementary will become a third- through fifth-grade intermediate school.

School officials haven’t disclosed how much money they expect to save by closing Briarcliff, but have estimated that shutting it down and combining other elementary schools will reduce district expenses by nearly $1 million next year.

The future of the building is undetermined. The space could be transformed into a pre-kindergarten building if the state provides funding for the program, it could be rented out or it could remain vacant.

“Board members feel the same way many parents and residents do: Briarcliff is a special school, with great teachers and an approach to early childhood learning that children thrive on,” Mr. Cohen said. “However, these same wonderful teachers and parents will now devote their intelligence, energy and talents to creating new primary and new intermediate schools.”

According to Joan Jacobs, who has taught kindergarten at Briarcliff since 1997, the school’s future has been uncertain since around 1992, when her oldest daughter was a student there.

“Almost since that year, there have been rumors that they were going to close Briarcliff,” said Ms. Jacobs. “It has always been one of the things [the district] could save money on by closing. But it was always so charming and served such a great purpose that they didn’t.

“I guess we all felt it would last forever,” she said. “My hope is that someday, when things are more stabilized financially, they’ll reopen it.”

TIME TO SAY GOODBYE

Last week, cardboard boxes stuffed with classroom supplies labeled “Ship to Miller Avenue” lined the narrow hallways of Briarcliff’s second and third floors.

During Field Day, Shoreham resident Christina Montes, whose son, Jaden, is a kindergartner there, said she felt lucky he was able to get even one year at Briarcliff.

“I absolutely love this school,” she said. “Unfortunately, with financial times … this is what happens. The good thing about it is that our staff is going with us.”

That includes Ms. Jacobs, who said the last day of school — this Friday — will be tough.

“It’s going to be hard,” she said. “It really is.”

To commemorate the closing, Ms. Jacobs’ class is writing a kindergarten memory book, she said. She also took a photo of her students to put inside it.

“I’m going to cry thinking about it,” she said, her voice cracking. “We’re trying really hard to not to make it sad for the kids. I want them to be excited about moving on and knowing that our experience at Miller Avenue is going to be wonderful.

“But when they look back on this picture in high school, they’ll know they made history,” she said. “They were the last class.”

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