Westminster breaks ground on ‘dream’

Published 4:30 pm Thursday, September 5, 2013

By AMY JONES / Associate Editor

NORTH SHELBY — Officials at the Westminster School at Oak Mountain broke ground on a “dream” Sept. 5.

Administrators, teachers and students gathered at a ceremony to mark the start of construction on Westminster’s new Upper School, expected to be ready for the start of the 2014-2015 school year.

Westminster Head of School Robbie Hinton said the construction of the Upper School has been a goal since Westminster opened in 1999.

“Since the beginning, this has been a dream. We knew we would need more permanent space,” he said.

Westminster, which has grown by 35 percent in the last three years, currently has 509 students in grades K-12. Hinton said the school hopes to increase enrollment to 624.

Students in grades 7-12 will attend classes in the 24,000-square-foot Upper School, while younger students will continue to attend classes in Oak Mountain Presbyterian Church, which houses the school.

Hinton said school officials have raised $2 million of the $6 million it will cost to build the Upper School through a donation drive. School officials plan to finance the rest of the cost, he said.

The $2 million raised came from a pool of about 200 donors — teachers, parents, grandparents and other Westminster community members. Everyone involved with Westminster is interested in seeing the school grow, he said.

“We have the right mix of extraordinary teachers and wonderful parents who want what we offer,” he said.

Dale Carrell, head of science and mathematics for the Upper School, said the new facility, which will include classrooms, art rooms and science labs, will help teachers in their work.

“I teach science in a modular building, and with labs, that’s very difficult to do,” Carrell said.

The new building will include plans for circular tables, which will allow students to discuss findings and questions with each other, instead of simply listening to instructors lecture, Carrell said.

“That’s one of the characteristics of our school. We try not to lecture as much as discuss,” he said.

Hinton said eventually, he’d like to see the school have a gym, a fine arts building, a track and a playground.

“When the community is ready to build the next phase, we’ll build it,” he said.