Campus improvements under way at MRABy MEGAN PHILLIPS,
CONSTRUCTION HAS STARTED on a new middle school for Madison-Ridgeland Academy (MRA). The facility should be ready by the 2018-2019 school term, however this fall, students will be greeted with additional parking and less traffic congestion.
The projects are the results of a strategic planning by the board of trustees for the past three years.
“Our board’s been conducting strategic planning really for the last three years,” said Head of School Termie Land. “Last year, it culminated into some recommendations from the strategic planning committee to our board. From those recommendations, the most pressing needs identified were the construction of a new middle school, a new dining commons, new parking and traffic alleviation.”
The middle school will house sixth, seventh, and eighth-graders.
“It will be 32,000 square feet and a three-story building,” described Dixon. “Middle school is such a unique time in a student’s life — academically, socially, spiritually and emotionally — so we are very excited that our middle-school students will have their own learning environment designed specifically for that age group.”
The new dining commons will be 10,000 square feet.
The new middle school and dining commons will be open August 2018, making it a 15-month project.
School officials have been working with Dean and Dean architect Alan Grant for the first phase.
“We’ve been working with him a little over two years. This last semester we hired Brasfield and Gorrie as our general contractor, who began construction as soon as school let out,” said Land.
The roadwork will include traffic circulation and 30 to 40 new parking spaces. “We’re always looking at our parking and traffic circulation around the school,” said Leslie Dixon, director of advancement.
“Any (roadwork) addition to our campus is positive,” Land said.
The school hired Neel Schaffer engineers to complete a traffic study for the campus and help school officials decide what was needed to alleviate congestion.
“We’ve developed a plan that we hope will make the disruptions minimal,” Land said.
The roadwork will be completed this summer for use in the 2017-2018 school year.
WITH THE ADDITION of the new middle school and dining commons, the school’s current student capacity will increase from more than 1,100 to a potential 1,400, according to Land.
“As we’ve seen record enrollment over the last several years, this new middle school building will provide much needed additional classroom space, where these students will be able to grow and flourish while also relieving classroom space limitations in the elementary and high school,” Dixon said. “And obviously having additional classroom space helps us offer more programs.”
Each floor of the new middle school building will have five classrooms and a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) lab. The second and third floors will be designed for enrichment classes such as music, computer science, art and more.
“Through the strategic planning process, we’re not only looking at improving our facilities as needed, but also looking at the different academic programs we offer to our students,” Dixon said.
The first floor of the the new middle school building will also include a reception area, administration offices, as well as offices for technology personnel. In keeping with the rest of the campus and classrooms, the new building will include state-of-the-art technology throughout.
The school is committed to keeping the small student-to-teacher ratio, and the school’s strategic planning committee has been mindful of the school’s growth while making improvement suggestions, Dixon said.
“Keeping our family atmosphere and unique identity is very important to us,” she said.
To help with recommendations for facility enhancements and student growth accommodations, Dixon said school officials reached out to current and past patrons for input.
“We’ve reached out to everybody to be a part of the strategic planning process, which led us to these exciting initial projects,” she said.