www.COMMACK HISTORY.org
By Robert A. Saal


~ Schools ~


The first public school had been an old slave cabin on Burr Road

     The first school house in Commack was located on Burr Road and had originally been a slave cabin and then a blacksmith shop near the Smith Burr Inn before being converted in to a private school. In 1812 it was decided to open the school to the community allowing any child to attend. Once the school became public it was moved down to Jericho Turnpike and was located just west of Caleb Smith's house.
     After the school had closed the building was moved on to Caleb Smith's property and attached to one of his barns. Some years later it was lost in a barn fire.


The South School was located on Commack Road where the Library is today

     The people living on the South side of Commack felt their children had to travel to far to school each day and asked the Board that another school be constructed nearer to them. Silas Strong, one of the founding School Board members, personally donated a corner piece of his property for the school to be built on.
     With the construction of the second school on the south side began the distinction of the children attending either Commack North or Commack South, two names that would come back in to use when the High Schools were built.
     Later when the frame school was opened in 1900 this building was moved across Commack Road and added on to the side the Moreland's barn.
 

      The two schools were also used by the grownups in the community as well. One evening a week a singing instructor came from out of town and met with the adults for singing lessons. There were also debates held, and once a year they had Magic Lantern slide shows, that were usually of a geographic nature.

      Silas Strong, who donated the land for the South School, was the librarian for School District 18 and in January of 1840 he presented the Commissioners of Common Schools of the Town of Huntington with a catalogue of the books then available to the students of the school at that time. The letter was signed on the bottom by the three Trustees, Amos Harned, John Harned, and John C. Bond.
     The following are a few titles from the report which show a hardy selection of History and Science, but only one novel. The Life of Washington, The Life of Oliver Cromwell, The Life of Napoleon, The Life of Sir Isaac Newton, The Natural History of Insects, The American Forest, Natural History, The Principles of Physiology, Celestial Scenery, Indian Traits, History of Virginia, Palestine or The Holy Land, The Chinese, and The Swifts Family Robinson.


This was the second North School or The Academy

     The Methodist Church opened a Seminary in 1839 just to the north of the church in hopes of encouraging young men to become ministers and help spread the word of the gospel. It did well for the first few years but then enrolment steadily declined to the point where it was decided to close the Academy. Since the original school house was now run down the church sold the building to the School District to use.
     When the new North School opened
in 1844 it was formerly called The Academy and the children planted two maple trees in front naming them Washington and Lafayette. The Minister of the Methodist Church presided over the first flag raising when the pole was erected sometime later.


In 1900 the new  frame school was built on Jericho Turnpike

     By 1899 the community was complaining so much about the conditions of the small one room school houses being over crowded and run down that the Comac School Board voted to purchase land just west of Mahler's Hotel and construct a new modern school. Miss Van Brunt who had taught for many years at the Academy was elected to be the principle of the new school and she was given an office just to the side of the main entrance.
      The new school consisted of two large rooms on each floor with with the students sitting in rows down each side and when they graduated to the next grade they would move across the room. Grades 1- 4 were on the first floor and grades 5 -8 on the second. At first there were two outhouses behind the building and later a small room was added to the rear of the building for a bathroom with running water and flushing toilets.
      Another modern feature was that of a coal burning furnace in the basement that was attended to by the new janitor. This meant that each of the students were no longer required to bring a piece of firewood to class each day or knock on the doors of houses near the school each morning in search of hot coals to start the fire in the stove for heat.
      The full time custodian also meant the children no longer had to help sweep the floors and clean the blackboards.


The old frame school house was replaced with a brick building later dedicated to Marion Carll

     Again faced with over crowded conditions it was decided by the board that a new school would be built. When completed this school had single classrooms for each grade, a large auditorium with a stage and piano that also doubled as a cafeteria, a library, bathrooms, and offices for the staff.
     Another modern feature was the addition a school bus. The children were seated youngest in the front oldest in the back. Frank Otten who owned the General Store and Commack Garage did any maintenance work on the bus when needed.

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This site created and maintained by Robert A. Saal 2013

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