As East Meadow's school-age population grew exponentially after World War II, more educational facilities were sorely required. The district's two schools, Front Street and Newbridge Road, had served pupils well for many years, but it was quickly apparent in the late 1940s that plans for the future would be in order.
Students in the district were already on "double session." As covered in an earlier article, the Front Street School inconveniently burned in December 1950 and its students were transferred to makeshift classrooms in various locations, including Newbridge Road School and Prospect Avenue School, which had just opened that September.
Rather than rebuild Front Street School on a small plot of land, district officials focused their energies on quickly completing a planned school just several blocks away. Taxpayers had already approved the purchase of a school site on a newer residential grid northwest of Prospect Avenue. At the time, the new numbered streets cut mostly through open fields. Original plans called for a two-story secondary school at a cost of $950,000, but this plan was defeated by taxpayers. A smaller $650,000 building was approved in 1949. The original design included space for both elementary and secondary pupils, with the idea that the building could be used as a high school in the future. As the district finalized its plan for purchasing a high school site and constructing a suitable building, officials prepared to welcome students in kindergarten through ninth grade. High school students would still be bused to Hempstead after ninth grade.
Before the new school would open, the Committee of East Meadow Citizens, working closely with parent groups and the Board of Education, convinced their neighbors to approve an addition to the building. This wing would double the size of the school before initial construction was completed. Workers rushed to finish their projects and Meadow Lawn School opened to students in September 1951. That same month, the district purchased a site on Carman Avenue for the future high school. Board members and administrators then turned their attention to the massive expansion program that would add eight school buildings by 1955. The district office was at Meadow Lawn School; there is a room that is still labeled "Board of Education."
In 1955, Woodland Junior High School and Meadowbrook Junior High School opened and Meadow Lawn School was reorganized as an elementary school. With the opening of military housing facilities at Mitchel Manor and Santini Sub Base, additional students came to learn at Meadow Lawn. Programming for both children and adults was expanded throughout the decade. In 1969, Meadow Lawn was renamed George H. McVey Elementary School in honor of the influential educator who oversaw the enormous growth of East Meadow schools during the 1950s. McVey, who started as a science teacher in Queens, was on the Board of Education from 1948 to 1958. At that time, he was hired to become assistant superintendent, a role he had for ten years. In 1969, just prior to his retirement, McVey was the acting superintendent. He died in 2003. McVey remains one of the largest elementary schools in East Meadow.
© Scott Eckers
Dr. Scott Eckers is the author of East Meadow in Arcadia Publishing's Images of America series. He is Vice President of the East Meadow Board of Education as well as Social Studies Chair for the East Williston School District. Scott is also an entertainer and recording artist.