04/01/11 — Wayne Country Day project expected to double size of school

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Wayne Country Day project expected to double size of school

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on April 1, 2011 1:46 PM

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Student Walker Malphrus walks through the hallways of Wayne Country Day School. A three-phase capital improvements campaign is in the works to refurbish the main building, create a new high school and to add an expanded gymnasium.

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An architect's rendering of the three-phase expansion campaign at Wayne Country Day School. A capital campaign will be launched for the $5 million project.

Wayne Country Day School is preparing for its third generation of students by rolling out a capital campaign and three-phase expansion project that will double the size of the private school.

The $5 million project is expected to take 24 months to complete, headmaster Todd Anderson said.

The initial announcement was made by the board of trustees at the school's recent annual meeting, with letters going out to stakeholders -- past and present parents and alumni.

"People kind of knew this was going to happen," Anderson said. "It was the worst-kept secret in town."

The process actually began about two years ago, when officials at Wayne Country Day began reviewing materials on the school's history.

"That's really the genesis, when the school had reached financial stability, we dug through the archives -- onion-skin and carbon paper -- minutes of the meeting that actually founded the school in May of 1968," Anderson said. "It said something to the effect that the board had decided to make sure that this was a first class building and decided to raise the highest amount of $217,000.

"Forty-three years later there's nothing wrong structurally, but just to refurbish it's going to take four times the money."

The three-phase effort will entail extensive remodeling of the current main building, a new high school and a new gym and performing arts facility.

And while it will also involve fundraising and in-kind cash contributions from the community, the headmaster said he is optimistic that the backing will be there.

"I think we're very confident that our student body as well as our parent body is very diverse," he said. "To get that many people in total unanimity is critical. But the response from everyone was, this is very overdue. ...

"I think people are excited about this thing. As a premiere secular school in the area, I think the time has come. People are going to be excited to have a facility that matches the programs that we have."

Memorial Day will signal the beginning of the 13-week first phase of the project -- a complete remodel of the main building, constructed in 1969 -- including a new electrical system, full spectrum lighting, complete renovation of all 10 bathrooms, new flooring and refurbished walls and energy-efficient windows and doors, plus the addition of a new central heating and air conditioning system.

"This building was built in 1969-70," Anderson said. "It's reached a very real need to get going on this, it's urgent. You figure 40-year-old lighting, everything here is 40 years old, it's time now to update and modernize.

"None of our entrances are handicap accessible. We have got to stop that, we have to get with the program or with the 21st century. Starting on the 30th of May, we're going to catch up. The current building is going to be as modern and as up to code as we can."

Phase one is expected to be complete by the start of the next school year, in late August.

Meanwhile, the capital campaign introduced in the coming months will determine how far the school can continue into phases two and three, Anderson said.

"We hope that the capital campaign will not last much longer than 10 to 12 months," he said. "We're well on our way to completing the first million of our campaign (for phase one). It'll cost roughly $2.5 million for phase two and the last phase will be about $1.5 million."

Groundbreaking for phase two, centered around the new high school, is slated for the Day of Epiphany, Jan. 6, 2012. The project includes the construction of six new classrooms, two science labs, a fine arts and a performing arts classroom, as well as the addition of surveillance cameras and expansion of the library.

Anderson anticipates there will be minimal disruption on the campus when the work begins.

"I'm hoping they can build in reverse, starting over by the soccer field and come toward the current building," he explained. "The concourse that's going to bisect the current building will be put in over the summer (2012), ready for academic year 2012-13."

But it's phase three that will be an added draw once it comes to fruition, Anderson said.

"Phase three will give us that auditorium, second gym, which we really need," he said.

The new gym/cafeteria will provide a 500-1,000 capacity assembly space for ceremonies and productions, with additional administrative office space.

"We're excited about that because there's really no venue in Wayne County for 1,000 people," he said. "We know as part of the community that that's the slam dunk that we can provide."

When there is a need to house a large gathering, such as the N.C. Symphony, providing a stage and area to accommodate the audience will be beneficial, Anderson said. It will also be a feather in the cap for those attending Wayne Country Day.

"One of the things that I think our school's facing, as a prep school, the opening and closing ceremonies, our branding ceremonies as well. With this we're going to be able to have a venue," he said.

The timing of the project, of course, will be contingent upon the capital campaign.

"It just depends on when we run out of funds, how much people are willing to provide, how much they want to buy into our vision," he said. "In our historic past, it's been three, five, seven families. Now it's really a community-based school, more and more people are coming."

And with the changing climate of education, Wayne Country Day School has done much to keep pace -- boasting strong SAT scores and scholarships for graduates each year as well as a rigorous academic program in all grades, the headmaster said.

"You can hate us if you want to, but the fact is we're another alternative," he said. "When businesses come to town, when people want more choices for education, it hasn't been just a few times that I have run down to the economic people and done a dog and pony show about our prep school.

"In the end analysis, is it facilities or the education? Obviously it's the education, but in this instance we need a facility that's commensurate with the education."

Anderson said he believes his staff has "got the academic piece down" and now it's time to let the exterior reflect and represent what the school offers.

"When I came here six years ago, we had a half-million dollars of deferred maintenance. We caught up with that a year and a half ago. There's none now," he said. "We keep to a budget. We balance our budget. Every year we have given people a 3 to 5 percent pay increase. We try to compensate people for what they're worth.

"The reason to do it now, every penny you give me for this capital campaign is going to go into phase two or three."