St. Martin’s-in-the-Field Episcopal School opened the doors on a new building on December 5 with a ribbon cutting and blessing ceremony.
The addition offers state-of-the-art classrooms for middle school students, administrative offices, a conference room, teacher space, a technology closet, a science laboratory and an art studio.
“We are a pretty small school, and so it’s a big move for us,” said Jamey Hein, head of school at St. Martin’s. “We’ve been in these temporary modular buildings for 15 years. It was a process to move out of those and into this new space.”
Though groundbreaking on the project began in October 2018, the formal decision to add the building was made nearly two years prior. This structure has been long-awaited by students and staff.
“We are considered a very small independent school, so in order to do a project like this, all of the funding needs to happen internally. The school relied a lot of private gifts and our first two grants in our 60-year history,” Hein explained. “That was a lot of work. No public entity came to us and said, ‘Here’s the funding.’”
With less than 200 students, the St. Martin’s school community is small, but with the help of private donors and the St. Martin’s-in-the-Field Episcopal Church community, they secured the funding.
While the educational experience of students and teachers was not hindered by the modular buildings, this new space was designed with their specific needs in mind.
“It gives them a more appropriate space to learn that’s suited to kids of their age,” said the director of academics, Kim Carson. “Because of the added space and the proximity of the different classrooms off of one hallway, the students are able to group together and participate in lessons that involved more problem-solving and critical thinking.”
The new structure includes a main entrance for all students, an issue that St. Martin’s has faced for years.
“We have three divisions here: preschool, middle school and lower school,” Carson said. “At one time, all three positions entered the school through three different doors. So now, all of our students are entering through the main door and spreading out to their different classes.”
Every young student at St. Martin’s is paired with an older student as part of a buddy system. Carson said that in addition to making the building safer and more secure, the most exciting prospect of the new entryway is that the older and younger buddies see each other as they enter the building.
“Already, the symbolic nature of the one entrance is important because we’ve been three different schools, and now we are trying to have a more cohesive unified approach to educating kids and inviting kids in each day,” said Hein.
Though the building is currently being used, there is still some work to be done. Hein is excited to decorate the inside of the building to match St. Martin’s student-centered mission.
“We want the walls to reflect a student-centered look and feel and culture and community and vibrancy,” Hein said. “We really want the kids, teachers and families to get a feel for who we are when they come into the school.
“We have been told one of our hallmarks is that when we get families here that it’s all about the feel,” he continued. “It was the welcoming ethos that drove people to enroll their children here. It’s very exciting to create that space and see how the students and teacher live into it.”
Photos by Larry Sells