Island School to double in size
June 9, 2008 · Updated 3:15 PM
"Education is all about expanding beyond limitations. And at the Island School, the most confining limitation has become the physical size of the facility. Our program is dictated by space, said Head of School Kelly Scribner. It should be limited only by our imaginations.Within the next month, the 23-year-old private elementary school on Day Road East will begin an expansion project that will roughly double its 4,400-square-foot size. The new structure will be built immediately to the south of the existing building, with a courtyard separating the two. The addition will house five classrooms and additional bathrooms.Once that building is finished, the current structure will be extensively remodeled to create office space for the administration, a large art room and a workroom for parents and teachers to meet and plan.We have lots of family involvement, Scribner said, and we need to have space for that to happen.The construction of the new facility will run through the school year and possibly into the summer, Scribner said. The remodeling of the existing space should be do-able over the summer.Our goal is to open in the fall of 2001 in our new space, she said.And a further expansion is in the works. The next phase of work calls for adding a large multi-purpose auditorium/gymnasium, complete with a kitchen and stage, to the east of the present building, where the portable classroom cottages are currently located.Right now, we don't have anyplace big enough for the while school to assemble, Scribner said. We either have to have assemblies where we all stand up, or we have to rent someplace else. This space will not only be for us, but for other groups on the island.Nice places shouldn't sit empty and idle, she said.A full-size soccer field is also planned for the second phase of construction.The expansion project will improve the quality of the school's offering, not the quantity, Scribner said. Enrollment won't increase beyond 114 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Current enrollment is 105.We enroll a full spectrum of children here, Scribner said. Some are brilliant, some have learning disabilities. But we treat each child as an individual, and aim to make them lifelong learners. That goal is furthered, in part, by small class sizes. Each class is limited to 18 students, and each class has a teacher and an aide. In some classes, attention is even more individualized.Reading is done one-on-one, Scribner said. Each student has an adult sitting beside them - either a parent or a teacher.Parents are also heavily involved in the four-week cultural immersion segment the school offers.During that portion of the year, the school intensively studies another country - this year, Mexico. Students learn history, geography, language and culture. Parents are also given study assignments. They have to give presentations either to a class or to the school as a whole about some aspect of the country being studied.The kids are so impressed and proud of their parents, Scribner said. And we're modeling lifelong learning for the students.The school has come a long way in 23 years. It was started in a garage in Rolling Bay by Scribner and by Nancy and David Leedy. In 1983, the school moved to the Day Road site. The building there has already been expanded once, and the portable classrooms have been added.The school's enrollment took a significant jump when fourth and fifth grades were added about five years ago, Scribner said. That change had a lot to do with the space shortage.Not only are there more kids, but these kids are physically bigger, Scribner said. There was also something of a fatigue factor.Our faculty is incredibly creative, and they could do a lot in a small space, she said. But you can only ask people to be creative for so long. Eventually, if you don't give people a good work space, they will leave.The current expansion was a different order of magnitude from anything that had happened previously, Scribner said.We needed to raise over $1 million, and you can't do that by asking people to save their coins, she said.A professional fund-raising consultant was engaged, and the drive got under way, with a goal of raising $1.2 million.While foundations were approached, Scribner said, yields from that source were small. Virtually all of the money came from the school family - parents and grandparents of present and former students.Our oldest alumni are about 28, Scribner said, so they're not at a point in their lives where they can make major contributions.It didn't help that Hyla School - a private school offering grades six, seven and eight - was raising funds for its own expansion at the same time.There's a lot of overlap between us and Hyla in terms of families who have children in both schools, Scribner said. The fund-raising continues. Scribner said that realistically, the first phase probably can't be completed for $1.2 million. The second phase - the auditorium and fields - will require a minimum of $800,000.We're looking at between two and three million to finish the whole thing, Scribner said. To Scribner, the fact that the school family was willing to dig so deep illustrates the degree of commitment to the school. And that commitment, she believes, is the key to educational success.It's easy and fun to run a school when you've got the support from the parents that I feel we've got, she said. "