Dana Hall School celebrated the ceremonial groundbreaking for the Classroom Building project on Thursday, September 15, with two events for the School community. The actual work on the building began at the conclusion of the 2021-22 school year; the project has a 15-18 month timeline for completion.
The first event was a celebration for students, with a morning speaking program in the Shipley Center that featured Head of School Katherine Bradley, CM&B Project Executive BJ Whennen, Visual Arts Department Head Michael Frassinelli and Chair of the Board of Trustees Courtney Caruso ’05.
Whennen, who is one of only a handful of female project managers in Massachusetts, explained her role and outlined some of the exciting milestones to come. She spoke of CM&B’s desire to get students involved in the many stages of construction, wanting to give them a first-hand look at various aspects of the project.
Frassinelli spoke of the collaborative nature of the project, citing the many opportunities to give ideas for the revitalized space. “It was wonderful to have the opportunity, as many of us did, to work with the architects to discuss how Dana Hall functions as a community,” he said, “from the big ideas of gathering spaces to the small details of classroom setup, function and flow for the various departments.”
After the event, students were invited to commemorate the occasion by donning a hard hat and vest and posing with a shovel full of dirt. They also enjoyed a special lunch and dessert.
“From the very, very early stages of this project, our students have been at the heart of all our decisions, discussions and desires. We knew we needed a learning environment that would meet their needs and provide the space where they could explore their interests, engage with new challenges, and realize their fullest potential."
Head of School Katherine Bradley
In the evening, project donors and families gathered in Common Ground to hear from Bradley; Caruso; Campaign Steering Committee member Michel Lagarde P21, 23, 25; and Social Studies faculty member Brian Cook. Guests enjoyed their own photo ops with shovels and hard hats before making their way to a reception at Grove House.
“We are seeing true philanthropy in action,” Bradley told the assembled guests. “Many of our leadership donors are past parents or alumnae, and do not have children who will learn inside of the new building. They are supporting this effort because they believe in our School. They are committed to securing the spaces and places where future learners will master new concepts and tackle important questions. They want Dana Hall to continue to shine brightly and remain an institution with a distinctive mission and powerful sense of purpose.”
Cook shared observations about the physical spaces that tell the “story of learning,” one that continues to evolve to reflect changes in teaching and learning styles. “The new academic building is a proud and bold declaration of Dana’s values and mission — outward-looking, connected, collaborative, inclusive, inspiring daydreams about what the world can be, helping students to become the best possible versions of themselves so that they may take on the leadership challenge of building the best possible future for us all.”
Designed by Dario Designs, the Classroom Building project is being funded by private philanthropy from community members. Last fall, the School announced a historic $15 million gift from the Manton Foundation, with $10 million designated to support the Classroom Building. To date, Dana Hall has raised $22.750 million in gifts and pledges from 217 donors, and looks to the community to give generously to complete the fundraising.
“Our students, our teachers, our administrators are remarkable, and that should translate directly into the built environment that surrounds them,” said Caruso, who acknowledged the magnitude of the project — the most transformative in modern Dana Hall history — and thanked donors for their leadership and support. “The magic of what happens in the classroom building — the vigor with which we approach teaching and learning — should be visible. And when past, current and prospective families walk through the new space, this will finally be on display for all to see.”