If You Build It, They Will Learn

When Stratford made its last round of campus renovations between 2006 and 2011, a new lower school was on the list.

But the Great Recession intervened.

Now with the economy on the mend, the Academy is preparing to launch a $4-5 million capital campaign to finally build the lower school, and with it complete the final piece of the school’s master plan inside the Loop Road.

Although not yet officially announced, Head of School Dr. Robert Veto has already begun lining up gifts, and a steering committee is being organized to help oversee the fundraising campaign.

“The campaign is still in the quiet phase. Right now a group of advisers are putting together a team of people to run the steering committee,” Director of Institutional Advancement Ms. Kathleen Medlin said.

Veto said he hoped to have the new lower school open for the 2016-2017 school year, but added that such a short time frame was an “ambitious goal.”

The new lower school, which will be located on the gravel parking lot, will replace the current building, which is no longer big enough to hold the school’s existing enrollment.

“Our goal is to improve our facilities and make classrooms bigger, better, safer, and more advanced,” Veto said.

Veto said that the layout of the new lower school will include a lunchroom that will ease the tight schedule in the main cafeteria, as well as a main entrance and office to improve safety. Although the lower school’s office will be one of three planned entrances, it will be the only one that is not locked during the day.

A very preliminary sketch of the new lower school's floor plan.
A very preliminary sketch of the new lower school’s floor plan.


“The most exciting part of the new facility to me will be the community atmosphere. I feel like having the lower school largely in one building will save instruction time because students won’t have to walk as far to enrichment courses,” Lower School Principal Ms. Redonda Mann said.

According to preliminary plans, the old lower school will be repurposed to house both athletics and arts facilities, as well as a renovated little gym with added bleachers to host games.

Medlin said that the lower school campaign is actually the second phase of the “Excellence Never Rests Campaign,” which was the last capital campaign at Stratford and collected gifts in the spring of 2003. That campaign resulted in the construction of the Loop Road, Dr. John Paul Jone’s Fieldhouse, Maurice Barnett Golf Pavilion, Jamie Kaplan Tennis Center, and Science Center.

The steering committee will be chaired by Tom and Julie McAfee as well as Stewart and Shannon Vernon. Both the McAfees and the Vernons currently have children in the lower school. The committee will also include administrators, faculty, alumni, and parents.

Veto said it was important to let potential donors and students know that the new facility will affect everyone, not just current and future lower school students.

“We’re working hard to make the case that the new lower school will affect the entire school,” Veto said.