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HISTORY OF ISLAND TREES

 

The area presently known as the Island Trees School District was part of the Hempstead Plains originally known as Jerusalem. The name Jerusalem was adopted by early settlers in the 17th century who were influenced by their strong religious background. Initially, the name Jerusalem applied to all of the land down to the south shore.  In 1867, with the extension of the railroad to Long Island, the southern part of the Plains became known as Ridgewood.  In 1890 it changed again to Wantagh, although the northern part remained Jerusalem until 1946. The area then called Jerusalem encompassed what are today the Levittown and Island Trees School Districts. Along the railroad track, west of Wantagh Avenue, there was a group of pines referred to by early writers as the "Isle of Pines" or "Isle of Trees." From this forest patch, District 26 took its present name of Island Trees.

 

Tracing the history of Island Trees is difficult because it had no entity as a village, post office or local government.  As few as 35 to 40 families inhabited the peaceful little area as late as 1947. The earliest and most populous settlement during the 18th and early 19th centuries was located along Wantagh Avenue north of what is now Sunrise Highway. Agriculture was the main source of income well into the 20th century -the chief crops were potatoes, corn, cucumbers, and cabbage.

 

The Island Trees School District was formed as a common school district in 1902. The original District 26 one-room school house was located on Hempstead Turnpike on 3/4 of an acre of ground. The little white building housed three generations of students. Twenty-five seats were set up in the room and blackboards lined two walls. A coal stove provided heat during the winter months. Drinking water was supplied by a well which was "inspected several times a year."

 

As of September 1945, Island Trees had a population of 230 people with twenty-three (23) children attending school. On October I, 1947, the first Levitt home was occupied and "rapid growth" came to the area. On June 15, 1949, the voters approved the construction of the Island Trees School on land purchased from Mr. George Wojtyniak for $22,396. The school opened in 1950 with 965 students enrolled from Kindergarten through 8th grade. Split sessions were necessary through grade 6 until a six-room extension was opened in the spring of 1951. Mr. Lewis Blodgett was the supervising principal of School District 26.  The Island Trees School was commonly called Farmedge School because it was located on the road bearing that name. The actual title of the school was the Island Trees School. Farmedge School was rededicated on June 14, 1969 and renamed the Stephen E. Karopczyc School in honor of 1st Lt. Stephen E. Karopczyc. Stephen was a Congressional Medal of Honor hero, killed in Kontum Province, Vietnam on March 12, 1967. A former Island Trees student, he attended the school from 1950 to 1955. His parents still reside in the Island Trees School District.

 

As a result of the rapid increase in population, it was decided that the Island Trees Common School District should form a Union Free School District. A common school district is empowered to operate only a K-8 school. A union free school district was formed for the expressed purpose of operating a junior high or high school program. District 26 became a Union Free School District on February 2, 1951.  The second building in the district, the Island Trees Memorial School, required longer to construct and was first occupied in September 1953 as a combination elementary and junior high school building.

 

 

As evidence of the difficulty of foreseeing the growth of the population in Island Trees, both of these buildings required further additions beyond the rooms originally planned. Six more rooms were added to the Farmedge building and approximately 25 rooms were added to the Memorial site.

On March 3, 1953, the voters of Island Trees approved a bond issue of $1.395,000 to construct the Michael F. Stokes Elementary School. This was the third building erected in the district. Early in January 1955, construction was completed and students were transferred into that building.

Soon after the completion of the initial phase of construction, contracts were awarded for the building of an additional eight classrooms plus administrative offices. By January 1965, Stokes housed over 1,038 students in grades K-6.

 

In 1955, the Geneva N. Gallow Elementary School was completed and shared the eleven-acre site with the Karopczyc School.  The continued increase in the Island Trees population required the construction of the J. Fred Sparke Elementary School in 1956, and finally the Island Trees High School in 1957.

  

Presently, the K-4 student population of 1,064 students is housed in the Michael F. Stokes and J. Fred Sparke Elementary Schools. The Memorial Building on Wantagh Avenue is now home for the Island Trees Middle School with an enrollment of 638 students in grades 5-8.  The Island Trees High School's configuration continues to be grades 9-12 with 613 students in attendance. The Stephen E. Karopczyc School and the Geneva N. Gallow School are used by the Island Trees administration and B.O.C.E.S., respectively which brings rent into the district, while keeping the buildings available for future student growth in Island Trees.

In closing, the Island Trees School District grew from twenty-three (23) children in 1947 to 5,852 children in 1963. Praise must be given to Mr. Lewis Blodgett. Supervising Principal of Island Trees in 1949 and to Board trustees, Michael Stokes, Joseph Walsh, and John Donnellon who faced a monumental task imposed by the sudden surge in student enrollment.

 

 

Island Trees School District

74 Farmedge Road, 2nd Floor

Levittown, New York 11756

516 520-2100

 

 
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