As they learned two weeks ago that Lawrence Woodmere Academy could be closing, and that its summer camp had already been shut down for the year, alumni of the school took to Facebook to share their memories.
“I attended Woodmere Academy for 12 years and also worked for their summer camp for another several years,” Jennifer Weisel-Lillo, a 2003 LWA graduate, posted. “Woodmere Academy was my second home, where I was always treated like family. I will never forget all the tears I shed at my last drama show, last concert and most of all my high school graduation. I would do anything I can to keep them open.”
She and many other are being asked for their ideas on ways to keep the private school open, after it announced that the current school year could be its last. In a Jan. 20 email to LWA alumni, the board of trustees wrote that the school may not reopen in September.
“A proposed sale and leaseback of the remaining LWA property may no longer be feasible,” the email stated, adding, “Fortunately we have secured funding to complete the current academic year in good order.”
The school enrolls students from preschool through 12th grade. Its origins date to 1891, when Lawrence Country Day School was founded. The Woodmere Academy opened in 1923, and the schools merged in 1990 to form Lawrence Woodmere Academy.
Over the past two decades, the school has had a difficult time sustaining its enrollment, relying on students from beyond the Five Towns — some from as far away as China and South Korea. Before the pandemic, it was planning to establish a sister school, the LWA Asia International School, in Shenzhen, China, a city that borders Hong Kong and is in an area known as China’s Silicon Valley.
In recent years, LWA has sold portions of its 10-acre property in Woodmere. In 2018, the Friedman Group purchased 1.33 acres of the land for $2.5 million, and planned to build a 33-unit residential development, but the Town of Hempstead has blocked the project from moving forward.
Last year, LWA sold a three-acre, horseshoe-shaped parcel of land to Campus Estates LLC. The Nassau County Planning Commission approved a plan to divide it into 17 single-family residential lots last July.
Before the trustees sent out the email, the academy announced that its camp would not reopen this summer.
It once averaged 400 campers per summer, but in 2020 it was forced to close amid the pandemic. When it reopened in 2021, enrollment dropped to 300. LWA has since sold part of the camp property, including the tennis courts and pools, which were valued recreational facilities.
Posting on Facebook, Sarit Kritzman said his children had lasting memories of the day camp. Lifelong Five Towns resident David Friedman commented, “I hope they are able to figure a way to stay open.”
Patricia Vacchio, of Inwood, worked as an administrative assistant at LWA for 26 years, and two of her children attended the school. “This is a real shame!!!,” she posted.
Among the school’s graduates are sportscaster Bob Wolff; Neil Levin, the executive director of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, who died in the Sept. 11 attacks; former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Aaron Kessler; professional basketball player Tyrone Nash; and Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s former attorney.
LWA is known not only for its academics, but also for its athletics — especially the boys’ basketball team, which has consistently been one of the top teams in the metropolitan area’s Private Schools Athletic Association. Jeff Weiss, a former athletic director and coach of the squad, was inducted into the Nassau County High School Athletics Hall of Fame in 2021.
Weiss, whose name is honored on the LWA court, which is named after him, holds the school record for coaching wins, with 620, led the team to 19 league championships and eight State Association of Independent Schools titles, and was inducted into the New York State Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.
“Due to ongoing discussions, we have no comment at this time,” the trustees stated when pressed on the status of the school.
They have asked people to contact them with ideas or feedback on how the school can remain open, at
LWAtrustees@LawrenceWoodmere.org, or by calling (516) 374-9000.
Have an opinion on the potential closure of Lawrence Woodmere Academy? Send a letter to email@example.com.