Board votes to shutter historic New Suffolk School

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NEW SUFFOLK -

A historic East End school is expected to close due to financial issues.

New Suffolk School Board President Tony Dill fought back tears moments before the board decided the fate of the 111-year-old, three-room schoolhouse.

Since last August, New Suffolk School has been struggling to pay $300,000 in back wages to teacher Martha Kennelly following a state ruling in Kennelly's favor in a tenure dispute. After several months of weighing options, the board voted to close the school and send its 15 students to either the Southold or Mattituck school districts — or both.

The school board had considered selling the school's ballfield and cutting staff to keep the school open while paying off its large debt. But the board said keeping the school running under those conditions would've involved a huge tax increase. There was also concern that staff reduction would harm the children's education.

"I wish we didn't have to make it, but we've been backed into a corner and we don't have any choice," Dill said.

Teacher Martha Kennelly said she didn't foresee the school's closure when she filed the tenure dispute against the school. She said she hopes the community will find a way to keep it open.

Residents will have to vote March 27 to approve sending students to other districts.

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