Just 10 months after students lifted their shovels for a ceremonial groundbreaking at Pinecrest Academy’s Lower School, the new building off Peachtree Parkway in south Forsyth has been blessed and opened to students for the 2019-20 school year.
On Tuesday, Aug. 6, the Pinecrest Academy community gathered to celebrate the momentous occasion, cutting the ribbon on a project that school officials say has been a dream since Pinecrest’s beginning.
After the ribbon cutting, words and prayers from school officials, and a blessing from Lower School Chaplain Matthew Kaderabek, doors to the 18,000-square-foot, 13-classroom building were opened so that teachers, students and community members could wander the halls and see the new facility.
“This is a big deal for us," Pinecrest Academy Head of School Ed Spurka said after the ceremonial ribbon cutting. "It's real special to pull up and see the flag pole in front of a brand new lower school, we're just so very blessed."
Since the schools beginning in 1993, Pinecrest Academy has never had a permanent Lower School building, operating its kindergarten through fifth grade classes out of modular classroom facility with a 10 to 15 year shelf life, Charlene Dougal, director of development at Pinecrest Academy said on Tuesday.
Dougal said that the Lower School modular classrooms were some of the first structures on the school’s campus and over time Pinecrest Academy has grown up around the classrooms. Eventually the need for a permanent building became impossible to ignore.
"I've heard our headmaster say before that our teachers are awesome, they could teach anywhere, it doesn't really matter what the space looks like,” Dougal said. “But now we have a space that matches the quality of our teaching that goes on here."
When Pinecrest developed a master plan for school expansion in 2014, the majority of parent feedback focused on building a permanent home for Lower School students. That possibility became more feasible this past spring after a donor offered to match $500,000 of all funds raised from March 1 to May 1, 2018. Pinecrest met that goal, which prompted another donor to contribute an additional $500,000. More contributions came in, including nearly $70,000 from Pinecrest’s staff of almost 90 teachers, school officials previously told the Forsyth County News.
By May 1, 2018, the school had raised $2 million, enough to break ground on the $5.6 million project.
While reminiscing about how far the school has come over the last 25 years, Dougal said that the donations that made the new building possible were nothing short of a miracle.
"The way the funds came together, how it all magically came together, our community did this,” she said. “None of these funds came from the school district or the state or the archdiocese, nothing. All of this money came from our own community to get this done. People saw the need and wanted for our school to grow and our children to have a permanent space."
Walking through the new building Dougal pointed out elements of the Lower School’s modern design, pointing out the school’s clinic, administrative suite and airy entryway that will ostensibly be the secure main entryway for visitors to enter the campus.
"Even though it's the Lower School building, this right here will welcome anybody," she said.
And when Pinecrest Academy students returned to school from summer break on Thursday, Aug. 8, Dougal said that they came back to state-of-the-art classrooms, with large windows that fill the learning spaces with natural light.
Dougal said that each of the classrooms will be named after a saint, the patron saint of that classroom, which will stick with that classroom forever, as students and teachers change or move on.
"Teachers might move to different classrooms ... But the saint name will stay forever," she said.
Brian Paglia contributed to this report.