- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Students enrolled at the Tidewater School this fall will be welcomed by a newly renovated building when they start class Sept. 3.
The building in Huntingtown was originally constructed in 1978 and was someone’s home before the school took over in 1996. With help from carpenters and engineers from Keen Construction and Scott Galczynski from Galczynski Architects, the school features new wood floors, an open concept floor plan and windows allowing natural light to flow into the classrooms.
Grace Yannakakis, Tidewater’s head of school, said the organization offers an alternative to traditional preschool and public elementary education for families who want a different experience during those early years. After spending most of her life involved with independent and private schools, Yannakakis came to Tidewater last year after serving as the lower school head at The Calverton School.
The new renovation has been a yearlong planning process Yannakakis started when she came on with the school last year, to enhance the learning experience for the children and parents, she said.
“The idea was that we were going to freshen up the space and make the flow from the entry to the classroom spaces more inviting for families, and have a neater, cleaner look to the building that worked for everybody,” Yannakakis said. “I think [the parents and students] will love it.”
The Tidewater School is certified by the Maryland State Department of Education and non-profit. It is largely based on the teachings of Maria Montessori. Montessori education emphasizes each child’s independence and respect for their natural psychological, physical and social development. Yannakakis said the building renovations fall in line with the school’s commitment to Montessori philosophy, such as a clean and open work space for the children and natural light to connect them with the outdoors.
In addition to the new floors and open classrooms, removing the staircase from the middle of the building was key, Yannakakis said, as the staircase blocked visibility and natural light.
“It changes the whole flow of the building, and it makes it much easier to navigate for everyone in the community,” Yannakakis said. “Now, the children can come from the classrooms upstairs, down the stairway and go straight out to our outdoor spaces in the back.”
The school focused its renovation budget on these “essential” improvements this summer, and hopes to continue renovations to the kitchen, which is original to the house, soon, Yannakakis said. Students use the kitchen often to cook “Local Lunches,” meals planned and prepared by the students themselves using local ingredients; it allows them to participate in the practical and hands-on lessons Montessori philosophy supports, Yannakakis said.
To complete the renovation, the school also wants to update the bathrooms to meet the Americans with Disability Act’s standards and add flooring in the community room, which will serve as a gathering space for meetings and arts performances — in total, an additional $50,000 worth of improvements, Yannakakis said.
The current renovations began immediately following the last day of school in June and have continued throughout the summer. Yannakakis plans for the renovations to be completed by the visitation day for students and parents Aug. 29.
“I am most excited about welcoming the children back to this new space,” Yannakakis said. “They do wonderful work here that they’re proud of, but there’s something about a brand new fresh space to do that good work in that’s really exciting.”
The school currently has 30 students enrolled, but has space open in the half-day and full-day primary classes as well as the elementary classes for new enrollments.