What if and why not? Those small questions can lead to big ideas.
They also helped York Country Day School’s Head of School to push through a history-making school expansion and renovation project.
Dr. Christine Heine was only weeks into her leadership position at York Country Day during the summer of 2014 when new theater construction plans were put before her.
“I looked over it and met with the (York College) president,” she said. “As the plan stood on its own, I told them I would rather not do it. As lovely as it was, it would remain empty for much of the day. I was asked for my ideas. In (September 2014), I presented them.”
It was the beginning of the new Ann B. Barshinger Center for the Arts and the Brougher Center for Innovation and Technology at the school. Key to these new facilities are that they will contain dedicated spaces to enhance York Country Day’s STEAM curriculum.
After raising and meeting a multi-million dollar fundraising goal during the past year, the new addition opens in September for the 2016-17 school year. A dedication ceremony is set for Aug. 27.
Past experience drives ideas for the future
Heine’s experience working with forward thinking, independent schools, like the Springside Chestnut Hill Academy in the Philadelphia area, taught her it was important to ask questions.
“I’ve been really comfortable in asking the ‘what if’ and ‘why not,’” she said. It helps with growth.
The school’s STEAM program includes science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics curriculum. For the 250-plus students attending the private school, the new spaces include a robotics lab, welding, video production, digital arts, metal and wood shops.
There is nothing to compare it to in York County.
“What I did with reading and research, I went back and thought about what are some of the best aspects of the best schools that I’m aware of and how can we take those concepts and implement them here,” she said.
The change also had to preserve the school’s culture.
“It’s a pearl in the community,” she said. “That’s a delicate balance.”
For many of the students (kindergarten through 12), the earlier they are exposed to the STEAM, the more they thrive, Heine said.
“We want them to be intellectual entrepreneurs,” she said. “That dogged pursuit of an idea. I love the idea of students embracing that aspect.”
Physically, there will be flexibility and fluidity in each room of the new building. Every room is a smart classroom.
“Technology is an environment, not an event,” she said. “It’s infused with everything, it’s like air.”
The expansion/renovation would not have been possible without the support of York County, Heine said. The school always keeps the students’ needs in mind.
“The York community is very generous and very bright,” Heine said. “York Country Day has a long and rich history and an important place in the community. But the driving force is keeping the students at the center. How do we best serve the student?”