Schools - May 21, 2008

Phillips Brooks School celebrates campus renovation

by Marjorie Mader

Phillips Brooks School has good reasons to celebrate after almost two years of renovation and construction on its leased campus, the site for the former Las Loma School off Avy Avenue in Menlo Park.

The school's 275 students — from preschool to grade 5 — and staff are now going to school in a handsome village-like setting with paths and landscaping unifying the new and old buildings on the 4.5 acre campus.

Cost of the renovation and construction was $15 million, said Nancy B. Errichetti, director of development.

"We plan to be here for a long time," said Kristi Kerins, head of school. "We have no plans to leave this campus."

Her statement speaks to concerns that erupted almost a year ago. That's when the news broke that the independent, coeducational school had purchased a 10-acre site for $5 million off Arastradero Road in unincorporated Santa Clara County near Portola Valley in its search for a permanent site.

Now there are no plans for building a school there, and the property is in the school's investment portfolio, say school authorities.

Phillips Brooks School has a unique private-public relationship with the Las Lomitas School District that owns the site. The school has a long-term lease with the Las Lomitas district that could go through 2022 if the school extends its options, said De Modderman, Las Lomitas district business manager. The school pays the district $928,000 annually for use of the campus.

Some 500 Phillips Brooks students, alumni, grandparents, teachers, neighbors and community supporters came to the campus for a ribbon cutting ceremony May 9.

"This was a wonderful opportunity to gather our school family together to celebrate our newly renovated campus, honor our school's history, and thank our community for making it possible," said Ms. Kerins, head of school.

This also was an opportunity for attendees to tour the campus and see the six new energy-efficient buildings, including administration offices near the entry to the campus; a multi-use facility with space for school assemblies, art exhibits, plays, concerts and sports; and a new library.

Two classrooms were built for the two fifth-grade classes. Art, music and science classes, taught by specialists, have their own space, as does the media lab. An early-learning center with its own play area for 3- and 4-year-olds also was built.

All portable classrooms have been removed.

Specialists teach several subjects: first-year Mandarin and Spanish in the world language curriculum, as well as science, art, music, technology, communications, and spirituality and service. There's also a learning specialist.

All classrooms in the older "tepee style" block buildings were renovated for kindergarten through fourth grade. Playground areas also were improved. Students continue to use the large athletic field on the adjacent La Entrada School campus.

The San Francisco-based BDE Architecture designed the new buildings and renovations. The builder was the Wentz Group in Redwood Shores.

Classes are small — 18 students per class — with two classes at each grade. Each class has its head teacher and share an assistant teacher for each grade level.

Annual tuition is $21,700 for grades K-5.

Stan Drake, physical education specialist and well known for his role in community sports, has been teaching at Phillips Brooks School since it was founded 30 years ago.

Thirty years ago, Elizabeth (Bitsie) Root, head of school at the former Trinity Parish School at St. Bede's Church in Menlo Park, and a group of parents in search of more space, relocated to the Las Lomitas district site. They named it Phillips Brooks School after the American Episcopal bishop, best remembered for his Christmas carol, "O Little Town of Bethlehem."

"We're delighted with our new facilities," said Ms. Kerins. "They enable us to sharpen our vision, give our teachers more resources, and do even more to enrich our program in ways that we could never do in our old buildings."

However, she continued, "A school's excellence is never a product of its fancy buildings. You judge it on what goes on inside."

Phillips Brooks ethos — its spirit, culture or guiding beliefs — is alive and well in its new campus, said Ms. Kerins.

"Our kids learn to love one another and love learning in a fancy new outfit. Both matter in equal importance," said Ms. Kerins.


Posted by Sarah, a resident of Atherton: West Atherton
on May 27, 2008 at 3:15 pm

Yay PBS!

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