Peconic Community School is finally headed to Cutchogue.
The private school took possession of the former Our Lady of Mercy Regional School building Oct. 1 and is preparing the building to be ready for students to arrive in January 2024.
Peconic Community School was founded in 2012 by Liz Casey Searl and her sister and co-executive director, Kathryn Casey Quigley. It started with just nine students but quickly outgrew its rented space at East End Arts in downtown Riverhead and moved to its current home at Our Redeemer Lutheran Church in Aquebogue. Today, roughly 100 students are enrolled there in pre-K through eighth grades.
“We couldn’t be more excited to get settled into our new home in Cutchogue,” Ms. Casey Searl said. “We’ve always felt like a ‘North Fork’ school, so to have found a place right in a hub of the region is thrilling. With 10 acres, we have a spacious campus with a park-like feel, and we get to be a part of the vibrant life of the hamlet of Cutchogue.”
The move will allow the school to expand its programing and offer a comprehensive summer program. According to a press release, more information will be available at peconiccommunityschool.org in the coming weeks and months.
The school also received a grant from the Robins Island Foundation to support the move and program expansion. School officials could not comment on the amount, but foundation director Ann Colley said the organization — an affiliate of the Moore Charitable Foundation, which supports regional historic, educational, health care and community programs and services — was delighted to be a part of this move.
“Preserving this property will enable the entire North Fork community to experience the benefits of the Peconic Community School and its programming, and we look forward to all that the school will continue to achieve in its new home,” Ms. Colley said.
Ms. Casey Quigley said she was grateful to the foundation for “acknowledging the importance of preserving and rehabilitating this special North Fork property for the benefit of the entire community … We can only attain the full vision of the property through support from this community, so the foundation’s leadership is truly significant.”
Peconic Community School announced a plan to purchase the 10.2-acre Sacred Heart campus in September 2022. Ms. Casey Searl and Ms. Casey Quigley first presented their plans for the property to the community that December, during a packed launch event for the Cutchogue Civic Association at Cutchogue New Suffolk Library.
In addition to the former school facilities, the sale of the property includes the Sacred Heart Church building; the church rectory, which the parish still uses as office space; a garage or “carriage house” behind the rectory; and woodlands that stretch north of the campus. Potential plans for the property include creating walking trails in the wooded area, turning the former church sanctuary into a performance space and creating an art studio with a community kiln in the carriage house. There are also plans for a playground.
Ms. Casey Searl said the school remains in contract to purchase the property and is currently leasing to buy. She added that they are in phase one of a capital fundraising campaign with a goal of $5 million to $8 million This phase involves “getting the school building in great shape, and working on the grounds, including a playground and garden,” she said. Their goal for this year, which ends in June, is to raise $500,00 toward the goal. She added that other plans for the property are contingent on their ongoing fundraising.
Our Lady of Mercy school closed in 2018. The church has been shuttered since the end of 2012.
The school plans to hold an open house for the community early in the new year, and will share updates on its website, on Facebook at Peconic Community School and on Instagram @peconiccommunityschool.