Garden Level Rebuilding & Recovery

On July 28, 2022, New City School experienced significant flooding and damages related to the torrential rain that took place that afternoon, which quickly overwhelmed city storm drains and caused flash flooding in the Central West End area. You can watch a video message from Head of School Alexis Wright with further information about the situation here.
In the immediate aftermath of the deluge, teachers, administrators, restoration companies and the school community at large were faced with an incomprehensible situation that not only called into question the start of the coming school year, but also presented them with a choice on how they would move forward. Classrooms needed to be rebuilt. Supplies needed to be ordered. HVAC, electrical and plumbing systems required restoration. Contaminated indoor air had to be pumped out, and air ducts had to be cleaned. The more the school team dug into the scope of the damage, the more catastrophic it became, making it clear that this was not simply a matter of drying things out and putting them back together.
Though Head of School Alexis Wright describes his initial feeling when surveying the damage in the immediate aftermath as one of helplessness, it did not take long for him and the New City team to understand that they were being presented with a chance to create a reimagined learning environment for the school’s youngest learners.
“I think this is a generational opportunity that we are taking advantage of,” Alexis says. “It matters because these are spaces for our youngest learners and where the majority of our new families are every year. “For many families, this is the first time their children have been in a school setting, and that is important. The teachers really make the space, but if you have excellent teachers and functional spaces as well, you can do all kinds of things. That feels like an exciting opportunity for us.”

That opportunity has turned into a vision for a Garden Level that is built upon a foundation of creating a child-centered environment that, according to Early Elementary Division Head Janine Gorrell, allows their voices and personalities to shine through in their learning spaces. Based on a naturalistic approach to learning, the reimagined lower level embraces natural light and organic tones in more open settings while thinking through every detail of the students’ and teachers experiences such as access to restrooms, placement of sinks, co-working spaces, opportunities to display work and clearer lines of sight – all of which, she emphasizes, go far beyond aesthetics.

Shawn Runge, New City’s Director of Finance and Operations, emphasizes the heavy lift required to bring such a vision to life. More than simply putting up drywall and rolling on a few coats of paint, the lower level repairs and renovations are a massive undertaking that involves new lighting, plumbing, electrical and HVAC systems, digging out window wells to give the level more natural light, reconfiguring spaces to make larger, more open classrooms and flood prevention measures such as putting in systems that separate storm drainage from sewer drainage and working with civil engineers who will build a berm on the north side of the playground to stave off incoming water from the surrounding area, which was the source of the deluge. He and Alexis estimate that the endeavor will cost $5 Million, a significant price tag but one that reflects the scope of the school’s vision for the future.

We are so grateful to our entire community for their offers of help and kind messages, especially in the days immediately following the flooding. We are looking forward to opening these new learning spaces for the 2023-2024 school year!

We encourage you to join us in realizing this vision for our early childhood classrooms by making a gift toward our Garden Level renovations.

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We are truly grateful for your support.


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