GLEN ARBOR — A Leelanau county boarding and day school leaders plan to build a new creative space for its students and open up more class offerings with an over $300,000 donation.
The Leelanau School received more than $300,000 from Charles E. Scripps, Jr., the son of former media conglomerate head Charles E. Scripps, Sr. and a parent of a former student. The entirety of the construction costs for a new one-floor building on campus, along with the costs of a laser cutting machine, will be covered by the Scripps donation, which is subject to change based on the costs of the construction, said The Leelanau School’s Head of School Rob Hansen.
The new facility will be 30 feet by 40 feet and sit next to the school’s art center. It will be used to house materials and classes for The Leelanau School’s pottery, woodworking, welding and metalwork classes. It will also house the soon-to-be-purchased laser cutter and classes on how to use the laser cutting machine.
The facility will have the capacity to hold two classes of students at once and feature an open floor space for experiments and testing.
The Leelanau School is a private boarding and day school for 9-12 graders founded in 1929. The campus’s 42 acres are set in the woods in Glen Arbor near the coast of Lake Michigan.
This year, The Leelanau School has 41 students and about 40 staff, including 14 teachers.
Students at The Leelanau School already have the opportunity to take pottery, woodworking, welding and metalwork classes, but those classes currently do not have designated spaces on campus. The laser cutter and classes on laser cutting and engraving will be a completely new offering for students.
As student interests evolve and expand and the buildings on campus age, The Leelanau School’s administrators seek to provide more space and opportunity for their students to explore those new interests, Hansen said.
Kate Olson, The Leelanau School’s director of alumni and development, said working and learning with hands-on experiments and lessons is also central to The Leelanau School’s philosophy. Teachers are already talking about how they can collaborate to use the new facility space to further their students’ lessons, like combining physics and music classes to teach about the physics of sound, Olson said.
“We just want students to have that opportunity in the space to be creative, to think across the table with each other and dream up projects and then do projects,” Olson said.
Bruce Hood, the ceramics teacher and science and math department chairman at The Leelanau School, said he is most excited that the new facility will open up more space for the school’s growing pottery classes. Recently, pottery has become its own course, as opposed to being a section of art classes, and has shared space with the photography and two-dimensional art classes, despite growing class sizes and materials.
“It’s getting pretty crowded,” Hood said.
Hood said he’s looking forward to cross-curricular collaborations, he said. In the past, he’s taught an ornithology class in which the students made bird houses and other classes have built trebuchets to learn about physics hands-on, he said.
S&S Contractors will begin building the new facility over the summer, and Hansen said it is expected to be done and ready for use by fall 2022. The space where the new building will be set is cleared and the architectural designs for it are currently being drafted, Hansen said.
The pricing estimates for the building had been made over the past three months, so the school’s construction project has not faced the same roadblocks as other school construction projects in the region. At schools like Benzie County Central School and Traverse City Area Public Schools, building designs and pricing estimates were made before inflation and supply chain shortages dramatically impacted the prices and availability of materials and labor, causing construction delays.
During the past year and a half, The Leelanau School has seen renovations across its common spaces on campus as a result of donations from Doug and Dianne Cook, who are parents of a recent graduate of the school. The campus’s student lounge area, dining hall, academic buildings and the Cook Learning Commons were upgraded with new furnishings and carpeting, Hansen said.
“We’re an old school and to be able to upgrade these spaces to today’s standards and today’s functions with today’s materials is really a benefit to our young learners,” Hansen said.