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  • By Lisa Brody

DCDS spending $30 million in expansion

Detroit Country Day School broke ground on Tuesday, October 17, on the first phase of a planned $30 million expansion project that will transform the school, beginning with major renovations to the middle school and reimagining the junior and lower schools into a single campus on Maple Road.

The private school, which has 1,530 students, currently is spread out over four campuses, with the Upper and Middle Schools headquartered adjacent to one another at the Upper School main campus on Thirteen Mile Road in Beverly Hills, and the Junior School, for students in grades 3-5 on Maple Road in Bloomfield Township and the Lower School, currently for students from PreK3 to second grade on Bradway Boulevard in Bloomfield Village.

DCDS has kicked off a multi-year, multi-campus project with its groundbreaking on October 17 that will transform the Middle School with $14 million of major renovations and an expansion that will double the classroom space and add 50,000 square feet to the existing three-story 60,000 square foot building, allowing each teacher to have their own dedicated classroom. The Middle School is located at 22400 Hillview Lane in Beverly Hills.

The renovation and expansion will also provide for more dedicated space for its STEAM program (science, technology, engineering, arts and math), the hands-on Maker’s Space learning program, and to expand instrumental music practice and storage spaces, renovate science labs, and create a private and secure play area for recess.

“Maker’s Space is project-based learning, which is hands-on learning for academics. Besides our strengths in academics and athletics, we also want children to learn by doing,” said headmaster Glen Shilling, who has been at the school for almost 40 years.

With the middle school expansion, which is expected to be complete with the 2018-2019 school year, Shilling said fourth grade will be moved to the middle school with the fifth grade, and sixth and seventh grades will be together. “We will have spaces appropriate for the different age levels, and will have dedicated cafes.”

The next phase for the campaign, focused to open in 2019, is to combine the junior and lower school campuses together into a single campus on Maple Road for all PreK3 through third graders.

The PreK section of the building, an early learning area called the Barbara Plamondon Earle Early Learning Center, and nicknamed the “hamlet” for it’s neighborhood-like area, has been designed to have rooms that are like houses, “so it’s a ‘home away from home’ for the children, with two teachers in each room,” Shilling said.

The expansion would move them up to a new structure – a “village,” for children up to fourth grade, where they would have a “farm-to-table area to grow things and learn to eat what they grow,” he said, “and a Village Commons, a specific Maker’s Space hand-on learning area.

“Children learn well when they’re doing things,” Shiller said, noting even DCD’s earliest learners are using 3-D printers and learning to code.

Funding for the projects is being done through the VIVID Capital Campaign, a long-term plan for the reimagining of DCDS. “We’ve have very generous donors, but we have more to do,” Shilling said. “There have been some generous lead donors who believe in the mission of the school.”

Shilling said they are currently looking to raise $15 million of the $30 million campaign, noting they have been quietly fundraising and saving money for some time.

The Lower School project still needs to come before Bloomfield Township’s planning board, design review board and board of trustees for site plan review and special land use request for approvals, but Shilling said preliminary conversations with township officials have gone well.

The school owns the Bradway building, and after renovations are complete on the other buildings, they will continue to use it as a center for innovations, “but not as a day in, day out building with 250 cars,” Shilling said.

“It’s a very exciting time for us at Country Day,” he said.

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