Welcome to “the happiest place on earth,” Kate Featherston says as I walk across the Lower School lawn, excited to see the recent changes the campus has to offer. Thus, the Lower School experience is based on a “family style approach,” where students form close relationships with their classmates and home-room teacher. This is something the new head of the Lower School, Mrs. Debbie Miller, loves most about her transition back across the bridge. “Just being down here every day provides me with a whole lot more hugs,” she comments. The Lower School students are excited for the new learning experience each day has to offer, especially the days when a Collegiate tradition connects them with the students in the Middle and Upper Schools. Similar to the Middle and Upper Schools, the Lower School will now be participating in the Schoology network. Serving as a communication tool between teachers and families, Schoology will help the Lower School division correspond as a whole under one system for the first time.
Not only does the Lower School have a new Head of School, but you can also find another new faculty member down the hall in the nurse’s office. Continually amazed by the generosity of the faculty and staff, Kathryn Heidt couldn’t be happier with her new position. A former University of Richmond and VCU/MCV graduate, she has decided to focus her work to Collegiate. Previously working in Henrico County, where she was the itinerant RN, she covered five separate schools within the county. Mrs. Heidt did everything from making health plans for children with medical needs to educating staff about student health conditions. In addition to being a nurse, she is also a Collegiate parent as well. Ben Heidt, a third grader in Mrs. Taylor’s class, could not be more delighted to have his own mom a member of the Collegiate faculty. So far Mrs. Heidt hasn’t experienced anything too out the ordinary, besides a few upper respiratory and stomach viruses here and there.
In addition to new faculty members, the Lower School has also been gifted with the grand opening of Centennial Hall, the new cafeteria. A space intended for new opportunities involving parents, teachers, and grade level meeting areas, the cafeteria will serve as a multi-purpose space. Not only does it provide a pleasurable lunch spot for those dining in, but it’s also equipped with the most current, “state of the art” equipment and appliances behind the scenes as well. Meeting rooms can now be created through the click of button as walls come together from all sides of the open space. The cafeteria area has also undergone a few updates compared to Burke Hall, the previous cafeteria. The square tables have been replaced with rounder ones, providing a colorful variety of seating options for all ages. Students and faculty also have access to quicker lunch service due to the creation of a second lunch line. Overall, the new space serves as a wonderful spot for accommodating everything from cookouts to parent-teacher conferences. Interested in touring the new building? Mark your calendars for October 7th to view the grand opening of the cafeteria, an area full of “new opportunities to spread out and simply have more space,” as described by Mrs. Miller. (Click HERE to get more details on the cafeteria from Eleanor Dillon.)
The Lower School has undergone many changes this year; however, adding a new grade level is something that hasn’t been done since 1915. The idea for a Junior Kindergarten program started out being a very underpublicized effort and was intended to be only one section. Nonetheless, before the Admissions Office knew it, they had enough applicants to fill not one, but three JK sections. These 48 students proceeded through with the application process and now walk around campus with “oatmeal colored” tote bags. You can find them sitting in the front row of town meetings, off to the side during the lively Convocation gathering, or even being dropped off behind Nunnally Hall in their own designated carpool line. In addition, the JK program also entered the Lower School with the construction of a new playground as well. Produced for the developing minds of four year olds, this space is surrounded by a track and is furnished with a “natural” looking design. Mr. Vlastik Svab, not only an Upper School English teacher, but also a JK parent, comments “We love the program and the teachers. So far it’s been a wonderful experience.”