Editor’s note: Some schools did not submit their information on new facilities or programs before the Neighbor’s deadline. The info from those schools will be added to this article in early September.

The dawn of a new school year not only means new faces on campus but, for some schools, new facilities and/or programs, which should bring similes to new and returning students alike.

The sounds of construction will echo around the Mount Vernon campus this school year as it is building a new upper school building, scheduled to open for the 2019-20 academic year with the old upper school building becoming the middle school building when work is completed.

From a course or program enhancement perspective, Mount Vernon’s new Virtual Reality Lab, which opened at the end of last year, will expand, thus allowing more students the opportunity to learn virtual reality content creation.

The school is also partnering with Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to create a virtual reality, content-related program with regard to advancement in prosthetics.

In addition, June 10, Mount Vernon unveiled a virtual reality exhibit to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King. Jr., and it remained up until last week.

At Riverwood, the third floor of its new building was completed in time for the opening of this school year as renovation of the school is taking place in separate phases.

Following the opening of the first two floors, which were completed prior to the start of 2017-18, the third floor will encompass the school’s English, science and social studies departments as students will continue to have classes in both the old and new buildings this school year.

In addition, Riverwood has a new garden program through grants from Lowe’s and Whole Foods Kids, where engineering, environmental science and culinary arts classes can take advantage of the garden in studying these science-related courses.

Other new programs scheduled for Riverwood this school year include a creative workshop and a new math center which will allow students to receive peer tutoring and support during the school day. The math center is modeled after the successful Raider Writing Center at the school, which opened in 2015.

Ben Franklin is also enhancing its STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) course programs this school year in several ways, including a new engineering class, as well as enhancements to its environmental science, anatomy and biology courses.

In other enhancements to its course offerings, the academy is expanding its Russian and business marketing courses.

Thanks to suggestions from its lower school students, Westminster begins this school year with a new playground for them, one that is very special to them. This playground was actually designed by the lower school students themselves as part of the school’s design thinking course, in which those students interviewed fellow students about what should be included in the project, did sketches, created prototypes of equipment and worked with construction consultants.

At Lovett, after a successful yearlong pilot of a new math curriculum, Math in Focus, in the fifth and sixth grades, it has fully adopted this curriculum for grades K-6 during the 2018-19 school year.

At the middle school level, Lovett continues to carefully consider how to best support its students as they develop as scholars. Toward that end, organization and study skills continue to be integrated into the classroom experience. Sixth-graders will also receive explicit instruction in study skills as part of their reading class, and an executive functioning coach is available to all middle school students.

Lovett’s upper school will introduce a new course in psychology as well as Design and Production V, a technical theater class for its most advanced students.

 This spring, Lovett will offer upper school students the chance to travel to Martinique for a French language and culture trip and to Portugal to work with Habitat for Humanity. Conversations about a course on location in Ireland are in their early stages.

Atlanta International will open the new Primary Learning Center this school year. It is a new building that will host 21 classes, including the new Mandarin section which will be open for preschool and primary school.

It already offers immersion classes in French, German and Spanish, and Mandarin is opening new classes from kindergarten to fifth grade.

Woodward built a new biotech lab and installed an OmniGlobe for instruction in the Carlos Science Center on the upper school campus. The OmniGlobe draws students in, illuminates a class lesson right before their eyes and gives them a physical reference point for the scientific phenomena they’re studying.

The OmniGlobe shows students everything from current and past weather patterns, ocean currents, plate tectonics (continental drift), earthquakes, tsunamis, past and (likely) future climates, constellations, the cosmic background radiation and even traffic.

The OmniGlobe, donated to Woodward by the Deepak Raghavan Family Foundation, can be used to teach all kinds of global subject matter, from atmospheric sciences to climate change, demographics, and geopolitics.

From a facilities standpoint, Woodward’s Thomas Hall, which houses fourth through sixth grades, received a building expansion over the summer. The expansion provides additional space to address the academic needs for our robust performing arts and physical education programs by adding an additional classroom and expanding the gym.

Also, Woodward's new Student Transport Facility, which the school broke ground on in March, will open in mid- to late August and is only half a mile from its campus. The previous similar facility was 1.5 miles from campus. 

At Holy Spirit Prep, it has added the Bright Wings Homeschool Bridge program, which opens up elective and extracurricular opportunities not normally available to homeschool families within the context of a safe, faithfully Catholic school that shares the same educational and moral values as homeschool families.

The program is open to students in kindergarten through seventh grade and applications are being accepted on a rolling basis.

Holy Spirit is also moving its pre-kindergarten 4-year-olds to the lower school campus, instead of at the preschool in Holy Spirit Catholic Church.

“This move opens a lot of new opportunities for our pre-K4s as they prepare to enter kindergarten, first among them enhanced enrichment opportunities in STEM, art, music, Spanish and PE, but also expanded facilities for those classes, and all of the after-school programming of Cougar Hour,” Head of School Kyle Pietrantonio said in a news release. “Our Mother's Morning Out, pre-K2, and pre-K3 classes will remain at the current Preschool site on the ground floor of Holy Spirit Catholic Church.”

One of the area’s most interesting new programs is at the Weber School, which launched the Zalik Academy, a state-of-the-art science, technology, engineering and design institute.

Over the past few years, numerous schools, or clubs within those schools, have developed STEM programs, but the Weber School is approaching these courses of study from a real-world, more serious and sophisticated standpoint.

This is being done by researching ways to approach bringing science, technology, engineering and design to its students in a way that not only can be taught in a classroom setting but gives these students access to mentors and peers throughout the world while exposing them to real work in this space, not just theoretical or hypothetical.

Among the Zalik classes in place this school year include Introductory and Advanced 3-D Modeling and Design, Introduction to App. Development, computer science and 3-D printing, jewelry, sculpture and fabrics.

At the Atlanta Girls’ School, four major projects were completed over the summer as part of the school’s campus enhancement program.

These included an expanded middle school dining hall, an expanded upper school commons space, a relocated and renovated Americans with Disabilities Act-accessible entrance and lobby and four new STEAM modular classrooms for all science courses.

Brandon Hall School this year initiated a junior boarding program, which provides a family-like environment for students in the sixth through eighth grade. It is designed for middle school students to thrive and learn important lessons and skills that will prepare them for success in high school as well as college and beyond.

Cumberland Academy of Georgia has added several new classes this year to enrich the social and life skills of its special-needs students.

The school has added culinary classes as well as dorm rooms. The goal is to teach these students to become self-sufficient by learning how to wash and fold clothes as well as basic cooking skills.

At Whitefield, the school is in the midst of construction on a dining expansion to the athletic center, which will boost seating for lunch in the middle and upper schools by 100 seats and will also provide additional meeting space on campus during non-lunch hours. In addition, the kitchen facilities were also expanded and upgraded to accommodate the school's recent growth. The dining facility is on track to be fully completed by December.

Atlanta International School opened its new Primary Learning Center earlier this month. The cutting-edge building will double the footprint of the old primary school, will welcome almost 100 more primary students and enable the school to launch a new Mandarin immersion program.

Home to classes for all 5-year-old kindergarteners through fifth-graders, the center will provide a collaborative layout that promotes co-curricular connections, student-centered learning and flexibility for students and families to enjoy. Other highlights include a music wing and visual arts center, all built around a courtyard with play-friendly landscaping.

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