Just around the corner from GA's main campus, the Ridgeview Avenue Campus provides a bucolic setting for the Pre-connecting and Connecting Class girls who call it home. A large grass field offers ample room for the girls to run and play. The nature path that borders the property abounds with STEM learning opportunities that change with the seasons. The raised bed gardens have been a lesson in responsibility and a source of great pride for the young girls. The playground, complete with a custom-built dramatic play space, is where most girls greet their friends and teachers at the beginning of the day and where many an adventure has taken place. Inside the classrooms students learn math, reading, and writing, as well as equally important lessons in character and community.
Not surprisingly, admission applications for these classes are robust. With only 20 highly coveted spots in the PC class, Director of Enrollment and Financial Aid Nina Hanlon admits, "We often found ourselves asking top candidates to reapply for CC." Despite the clear demand for PC admissions, the bottle neck has been classroom space. The much-loved PC classroom was effectively a one-room schoolhouse without possibility for expansion.
"As we've been engaged in our overall campus master plan for the past year," says Head of School Molly King, "we knew it was time to address this issue. Early in the last admission cycle we started planning for two PC classes with 15 students each. In parallel, we began working with Patriquin Architects, a design firm based in New Haven, CT that has worked on several early childhood building projects. Their work immediately impressed us as aesthetically clean and totally child-centered."
"In terms of design, we wanted the building to complement the existing CC building and the homes in the neighborhood," says Mrs. King, "While inside our objective was to support the pedagogy and users of the space." To that end, PC head teachers Audrey Esmond and Michelle Kennedy were asked to participate in the requirements gathering and design phases of the project. Mrs. Esmond explains that she and Mrs. Kennedy felt it was essential that the building "offer a transparent relationship with the outdoors as well as between classes, and a central outdoor gathering place or 'town green' where the two classes can come together throughout the day."
The final building design includes a welcoming entrance, two open classrooms for learning, social interaction and exploration, a shared learning space, a kitchen, a courtyard with space for a future butterfly garden, and on the second floor, a faculty apartment.
In early-July, the old PC building, was torn down and construction began on a new structure. Modular classrooms are being installed for the start of the school year, with move-in to the new building anticipated to take place over spring break.
Of course, the PC teachers see the construction process as a learning opportunity. "We are sure the girls will be excited to observe the construction process this year and predict their curiosity will generate some interesting project work!" says Mrs. Kennedy.