Stakeholders tour Hilltop’s Phase 3 construction

MT LAUREL – Parents and grandparents of Hilltop Montessori School students toured the school’s under-construction Phase 3 on Friday, March 24.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the $3.5 million project was held late in 2015, and the facility is expected to be open in the fall.

The new building will encompass about 12,000 square feet and feature a gymnasium/multipurpose space, teaching kitchen, art studio, science lab and piano studio.

Other amenities will include an apiary, butterfly garden and peace labyrinth.

The building will also house restrooms, locker rooms and showers.

Hilltop’s Phase 3 will be a way for the school to give back to the Mt Laurel community, as the facility will be available for use by community members outside of school hours, Hilltop Head of School Michele Wilensky said.

Phase 3 is 70 percent complete, Wilensky said. An “open house” of sorts was planned for the school’s annual Grandparents Day, when grandparents and parents can visit the school and meet with faculty and staff.

“We decided today would be a great day,” Wilensky said during the event.

Wilensky said the kitchen was modeled after the Edible Schoolyard Project and should allow Hilltop to serve meals with food produced at the school and supplemented by local farmers.

Students will see their food produced from seed to plate, Wilensky said.

Phase 1 of Hilltop’s construction was the main school building, which opened in 1996; while Phase 2 was additional classroom space completed about six years ago.

The new facility is being built by JohnsonKreis Construction, while Williams Blackstock Architects produced the plan.

Jonathan Meadows, architect with Williams Blackstock, said the collaborative design process began with faculty, parents and even students offering opinions about how the facility should fit in with the rest of the campus.

“We took the ideas they came with and brought back a multitude of possible solutions,” Meadows said. “It was very much a back-and-forth with the school.”

Donors contributed about $641,000 for the project, and the remainder was financed by USAmeriBank at a non-profit rate, Wilensky said.

Along with the completion of construction of Phase 3 over the summer, Hilltop will also see its existing music room in the main building renovated into a multimedia center and library.