Park City Day School expansion is a ‘major milestone’ | ParkRecord.com

Park City Day School expansion is a ‘major milestone’

Leaders say new facility is a landmark achievement for the school

It shaped up to be a banner day for The Park City Day School.

The school on Thursday was scheduled to hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a 5,500-square-foot expansion of its lower-school building that officials say will enhance the learning opportunities for elementary students. Tess Miner-Farra, assistant head of school, said the opening of the facility, which includes six classrooms designed for flexible, project-based learning, is a landmark achievement for the school, which is seeking to grow its enrollment in coming years.

"Really, that building project has been the next major milestone in the development of our school to become the school that we'd like to be," she said.

The Park City Day School, at 3120 Pinebrook Road, is an independent school that serves students from preschool through eighth grade.

Miner-Farra compared the ribbon-cutting event to the beginning of a new chapter in the school's history. As well as unveiling the expansion, the school will introduce Ian Crossland, who will take over as head of school this summer, and Miner-Farra expected many people who have helped shape the school over the years would be there to celebrate.

"It's one of those moments when all of those who have put their time and resources and their energy into developing this and supporting us through that process, they get to take a deep breath and celebrate," she said.

School leaders say the expansion is worth a celebration because of how it will improve the education students receive. For example, lab space on the east end of the facility will serve as an area for science and experimentation for preschoolers through second-graders. Melanie Pickens, the school's director of studies and technology, said tha space will allow students to engage in hands-on learning of foundational STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) concepts.

"The whole setup is designed for younger learners," she said. "They're not sitting at big, tall tables. They can get down on their hands and knees when necessary and really dig in. That's what we're most excited about more than anything."

What the students learn in the lab — and the way they'll learn it — will pay off throughout their educational careers, Pickens added.

"It's extraordinarily important for them," she said. "And through science, it's exciting because (they) get to experience failure in a positive way. That teaches them resiliency … and to move forward. If it didn't work the first time, what do you need to do to make it work better? They keep going until they end up with a result they're happy with."

The expansion also includes four classrooms, separated by dividers, for fourth- and fifth-graders that can be conjoined into two larger learning areas. Pickens said students will be able to interact as entire grades, rather than being confined to their individual classes.

Additionally, school leaders are hoping common areas outside of the classrooms foster the type of collaboration that will help students develop the soft skills they'll need for 21st-century jobs.

"It's neat to be able to walk down there and see them working in pairs at tables, sitting on the floor and working in small groups," Pickens said. "They're spreading out and engaging and building that collaborative learning environment. We feel like that's really given the upper-elementary students an opportunity to delve into that, but in close enough proximity to classrooms that there's sufficient supervision."