2 kindergarten classes, new building eyed

By Diette Courrégé Casey

dcourrege@postandcourier.com

With an eye on the future and a desire to remain competitive, downtown Mason Preparatory School is making some major capital investments and program changes.

The private school with first through eighth grades plans to add two kindergarten classes in the fall of 2014, and it will house them in a new two-story lower-school building. The building represents the first of a two-phase capital master plan that eventually will result in a regulation-size gym, renovated classrooms and more gathering space.

“We’re presenting it as transforming our school,” said Erik Kreutner, head of school for Mason Prep. “There are so many more options for parents to choose from ... and we feel we have a great program and we want our facilities to match the excellent quality of education that’s going on inside.”

One of the reasons the school wants to add kindergarten is because it’s losing prospective families by not starting until first grade. More families have two parents working and need a full-day kindergarten, and they don’t want to switch schools after one year, he said.

The school’s teachers for years have wanted kindergarten classes, and having those will enable students to be exposed to its programs earlier. Adding kindergarten also will help keep the school’s enrollment healthy, he said.

“This will be something that will be great for the community,” Kreutner said.

The 308-student school has outgrown its facilities, but it wants to stay at its downtown campus, which is within walking distance of educational, cultural and historic sites. The school bought two pieces of property surrounding the school, and it plans to demolish the houses on those to expand its footprint.

The first phase of construction will cost $6 million, and that includes the 14,000-square-foot, two-story lower school building that eventually will accommodate kindergarten through third grade. Some of the building will be used as a multi-purpose gathering space for small assemblies or a makeshift cafeteria. The school’s first- through sixth-graders eat lunch at their desks, and this will enable them to eat with one another, Kreutner said.

The hope is that the building will be finished by fall 2014.

“We’re really excited about having a bigger space where kids can gather,” he said.

The second phase will include a new student activity center with a regulation-size gym. The school’s current gym was built to elementary school standards, so it’s not the right size for basketball or volleyball and means school teams have to travel for home games. The center also will include new classroom spaces, and the second phase will renovate and expand other existing classrooms.

“We want more classrooms to give us more flexibility, and larger classrooms ... that are comparable to what you see in public and new independent schools,” he said.

The first phase of construction will be paid for using the school’s reserve funds and by taking out a loan, and it will kick off a capital campaign later this school year for the second phase. Its goal is to raise $1 million.

Reach Diette Courrégé Casey at @Diette on Twitter or 937-5546.