New building brings new opportunities for protecting Whitefield Academy’s youngest pupils.
By Cory Sekine-Pettite
On Aug. 17, 2020, the new school year began here in Cobb County under the ire of the worst national health crisis this country has seen since the flu pandemic of 1918. While there has been much public debate and private discourse regarding the merits of opening schools this fall, one thing is for certain: the schools had to be prepared.
Above all else, administrators and teachers in every school planned all summer to make the health and safety of students and faculty the number-one priority. Where possible, classrooms have been modified, certain activities are being limited, and CDC and Department of Health guidelines are being followed. Knowing that Whitefield Academy* in Smyrna was debuting a new building for its youngest pupils, we checked in with Lower School Principal Maryellen Berry just as the school year was beginning to find out how Whitefield’s PreK through fourth-grade students are being protected.
First, she said, beginning in May, “A group of faculty, staff, and administrators developed plans for several different modes of operation for the start of the 2020-2021 school year. A smaller group of administrators synthesized the content to prepare four potential modes of operation. Parents were informed throughout the summer of the various scenarios so that they gained knowledge of the school’s thoughtful preparations. The school provided parents the opportunity to share their feedback and questions as well.”
Those modes, which are described in detail on the school’s website, break down as follows: Mode 1 – Traditional, on-campus learning; Mode 2 – On-campus learning with mitigation; Mode 3A & 3 – Hybrid Learning; and Mode 4 – Remote learning. As of press time, Whitefield was operating under Mode 3A, which combines elements from modes 2 and 3 to ensure the safety of students, families, faculty, and staff. Monday through Friday, students in PreK through sixth-grade will learn through in-person, on-campus instruction in small class sizes. Students in seventh- through 12th-grade will learn remotely on Mondays and in-person, on-campus Tuesdays through Fridays in small class sizes. Mode 3A prioritizes in-person, on-campus instruction and maximizes all campus facilities to allow for physical distancing.
“Because of the thoughtful, intense work throughout the summer, the school is prepared to follow CDC and the Department of Health guidelines to keep our community safe,” Berry adds.
The new Lower School building, Brostrand Hall (named in honor of the Lower School’s former principal Jeanine Brostrand who retired in 2018), had been under construction since April of last year. Funding for the facility came from the school’s “Leaving a Legacy” fundraising campaign. “Many of our largest donors to this campaign will not directly benefit from the use of this new building, but they believe in the larger mission of Whitefield Academy, and they understand the need to invest for our future growth by creating the best quality spaces to serve our youngest students in a building that is safe, beautifully designed and dedicated to meet their educational needs,” Whitefield’s Head of School, Dr. Kevin Bracher, told our sister publication KNOW Atlanta magazine last year. “Brostrand Hall will do that.”
At approximately 40,000 square feet, this three-story building mirrors the state-of-the-art facilities currently in use on the campus for the high school and middle school students, and it allows Whitefield to expand both its physical and academic reach for Lower School students. Among the $24-million building’s key features are 19 classrooms designed specifically for elementary school children; a new dining facility with a full commercial kitchen; administrative offices, allowing for increased collaboration among the Lower School team; and expanded utilization of open-air and covered outdoor play areas.
The one-building design gives Whitefield an opportunity to showcase the creativity and excellence of its students and foster a culture of collaboration among all grade levels, Berry says. Brostrand Hall will accommodate up to 300 students, but for now, the Lower School’s older, modular buildings still will be used for some classroom instruction to enable physical distancing.
“Brostrand Hall is stunning inside and out,” Berry said. “This beautiful building will reflect the excellent teaching within it for years to come. Students in PreK through fourth grade will have gorgeous spaces to build a passion for learning, for others ahead of self, and for the living and active Jesus.”
Part of the school’s mission, Berry added, is to build a passion for others ahead of self. Wearing masks and following established protocols will allow students and faculty to live out that part of Whitefield’s mission as they care for each other.
“Parents can expect an excellent, Christ-centered education; that has not changed,” Berry said regarding the new school year and updated facilities. “We have increased cleaning measures, safety protocols, and have split our classes to enable physical distancing. What has remained is a nurturing environment with excellent faculty who will ensure that safety protocols are maintained to protect our students, faculty, and community.”
Located in Smyrna, Whitefield Academy is a Christ-centered, college preparatory school serving more than 850 students in Pre-K through grade 12. The rigorous, college-prep curriculum with numerous AP and honors courses sets the framework for 100 percent of graduates to attend colleges and universities of their choice. A full range of athletic programs, visual and performing arts, STEM lab and college/career planning complement the strong academic offerings of this well-rounded school.