Last week, Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (SCH) Board of Trustees, the SCH community, and local partners joined the McCausland family to break ground on a $34 million building project: the McCausland Lower School & Commons, a new building, outdoor green space and common area to serve SCH students in grades Pre-K-4th grade.
The project is the centerpiece of Phase II of the school’s Campus Master Plan, a multiyear capital campaign, and is one of the largest new initiatives in the Northwest corner of the city.
Pre-K boys and girls, who will be among the first to move into the new building, led the groundbreaking ceremony with “Inch by Inch.” Students sang the popular tune by John Denver as a metaphor for the growth that will occur in the new space. Members of the McCausland family, joined by SCH Academy Board Chair Dick Hayne and Head of School Steve Druggan, hoisted a ceremonial shovel and took the first dig to make way for the imminent construction site that will follow shortly.
“This space is designed to showcase SCH’s standout educational program, one that is forward-thinking and nurturing and will serve as the latest example of SCH’s position as a leader in educational thought and practice,” Druggan said. “The new building and outdoor common area will serve SCH’s youngest community members as they begin their educational journey. I am thrilled that the first class of first graders, as well as our donors and board members, were able to join us in kicking off this important project, which will enable us to even better serve our students and community.”
Perched on 10 acres of SCH woods adjacent to the Wissahickon watershed, the McCausland Lower School and Commons has been designed for today’s SCH learners, who engage in independent and group activities, self-directed learning, outdoor experiences, interdisciplinary projects, designing, building, and prototyping.
The building was designed by respected leaders in Philadelphia’s architectural, environmental, and engineering communities and will embody the best of current thinking in these fields as it relates to educational structures. Features of the three-story building include:
- Natural materials, such as native Wissahickon schist, slate shingles, and wood finishings;
- Classroom furnishings and room layouts that accommodate both solitary and collaborative work, including reading nooks, storage for projects, and both relaxed and formal work seating;
- Outdoor playscapes and an intimate amphitheater made from natural materials that encourage the imagination and connect students with the surrounding environment;
- A two-story library and community space that overlooks the SCH woods and connects to the Wissahickon Park;
- A grand entranceway with a welcoming fireplace, in the spirit of the signature entry to the school’s main building, the Wissahickon Inn on the Willow Grove Campus.
At the groundbreaking, SCH Board Chair Dick Hayne was joined by Bonnie McCausland, representing the entire McCausland family, to share remarks at this milestone moment. With her children and grandchildren present to celebrate, Bonnie said, “Peter and I and our family are so thrilled that SCH is in such a good place and has such a promising future. We applaud the Board, Steve Druggan and his staff, the faculty, the students, the parents, and the alumni, all of whom have contributed to our success. We would also like to acknowledge the many individual efforts which make SCH such a great school – teachers who instill a love of learning and thinking in their students, parents who volunteer, alumni who return and support the school to show their gratitude, staff members who keep our school running smoothly – each of these individual efforts combine to forge an amazing culture which is SCH. The McCauslands are glad to be a part of it.”
Hayne’s remarks touched on the journey the school has taken to get to this place on this day in June. He was ebullient: “What a fantastic day for SCH! It’s taken us awhile to get here. But, we teach resilience at SCH and this is a perfect example of that. I’m so happy that we are starting with this today and in one year and three months, we will be back here to cut the ribbon on a new Lower School. Thanks to the McCausland family and all of the Board of Trustees; you have helped make this a part of our kids’ future.”
Construction of the project will begin once the academic year adjourns, and SCH expects to open the new Lower School building to students in the fall of 2019.
With the lead gift from the McCausland family – Peter and Bonnie McCausland, Elizabeth and Kyle Salata, and Chris and Kristina McCausland – and other funds that have been contributed for this project, SCH has raised 90-percent of the funds needed for the $34 million capital campaign and is continuing Phase II fundraising efforts.
Renderings of the building can be found at www.sch.org/campusmasterplan.