Little Red School House

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Coordinates: 40°43′37″N 74°00′17″W / 40.72694°N 74.00472°W / 40.72694; -74.00472

Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School
Lil Red School Hs & Elisb Irwn HS jeh.jpg
Established 1921
Type Independent, Coeducational, and College Preparatory School
Affiliation NAIS, NYSAIS, Interschool
Founder Elisabeth Irwin
Head of School Philip Kassen
Faculty 50
Grades PreK–12
Location Lower & Middle School:
272 Sixth Avenue
High School:
40 Charlton Street,
Manhattan, New York City,
New York, US
Accreditation NAIS, NYSAIS
Campus Urban
Colors Red & White
Mascot The Knight
Yearbook LREI Expressions
Newspaper The Charlton Label

The Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School, also referred to as LREI, was founded by Elisabeth Irwin in 1921 in Manhattan, New York City as the Little Red School House, and is regarded as the city's first progressive school. Created as a joint public-private educational experiment, the school tested principles of progressive education that had been advocated since the turn of the 20th century by John Dewey. The founders postulated that the lessons of progressive education could be applied successfully in the crowded, ethnically diverse public schools of the nation's largest city.

In 1932, after the onset of the Great Depression caused the Public Education Association to withdraw the funding that had allowed the school to exist within the New York City public school system, William O'Shea, the superintendent of schools – who had previously tried to close down the program because of its progressive ideas – announced that the school would be eliminated because of a budgetary crisis. Parents raised sufficient funds to pay for salaries, but O'Shea refused to accept the money, and the school was forced to turn to private funding. It moved to a building on Bleecker Street provided at no cost by the First Presbyterian Church and began a new life as an independent school.[1]

The Little Red School House consists of a lower school, a middle school, and a high school. In the 1940s the Little Red School House's high-school students decided they wanted their school to be named after its founder, Elisabeth Irwin, making the full title of the institution The Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School.

College placement[edit]

The five most frequently attended colleges and universities for Elisabeth Irwin graduates from 2000 through 2009 were:

Elisabeth Irwin High School at 40 Charlton Street


The Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School occupy two separate buildings, with a third space housing athletic facilities.

The middle-and-lower-school building is located at 272 Avenue of the Americas (Sixth Avenue) at Bleecker Street, while Elisabeth Irwin High School is at 40 Charlton Street between Sixth Avenue and Varick Street. In June 2008, LREI announced the acquisition of additional space with the purchase of 42 Charlton Street, directly next door. The new townhouse was to be renovated and connected to the existing building. A separate building, the Thompson Street Gym, houses facilities for physical education and athletics.

Extracurricular activities[edit]


LREI's sports teams include soccer (boys and girls), volleyball (HS girls, MS co-ed), cross-country track (co-ed), basketball (junior varsity and varsity, boys and girls), spring track (co-ed), tennis (co-ed), softball (girls), baseball (boys), golf (co-ed), ultimate Frisbee (co-ed), and swimming (co-ed). The school and team colors are red and white.

Clubs, committees and Common Interest Organizations[edit]

The institution's original home as a private school, at 196 Bleecker Street, is still part of the Bleecker Street/Sixth Avenue complex.

Directors and leaders[edit]

Notable alumni[edit]


The Little Red School House's companion school from 1944 to 1971 was the Downtown Community School (DCS) on the Lower East Side, whose alumni include the writers Peter Manso, Ann Lauterbach, Peter Knobler and Richard Kostelanetz. Its director from 1951 to 1970 was educator and folklorist Norman Studer.

Affiliated organizations

See also[edit]



  1. ^ O'Han, Nicholas. "The Little School That Could" National Association of Independent Schools website (Summer, 2009)
  2. ^ "Peter Knobler" on
  3. ^ Radosh, Ronald. Commies; A Journey through the Old Left, the New Left, and the Leftover Left, Encounter Books, 2001. Chapter 2, "The Little Red Schoolhouse," pages 25-48.
  4. ^ Martin, Douglas (2013-07-11). "Toshi Seeger, Wife of Folk-Singing Legend, Dies at 91". New York Times. Retrieved 2013-08-07. 

External links[edit]