Waynflete opens 'spectacular' new Lower School

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PORTLAND — The new Lower School at Waynflete is a learning laboratory where students can engage in deep inquiry, Head of School Geoff Wagg said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony held Sept. 14.

“This day represents decades of hopes and dreams,” Wagg said last week, while calling the new building “much more than bricks and mortar.”

The Lower School, which serves students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, is part of a $12 million capital improvement project on Waynflete’s West End campus, which also includes a new gymnasium.

Construction on the new Lower School began in June 2017. The project doubles the size of the school, from 20,000 to 40,000 square feet.

Along with classroom space, the new building also includes a library, an amphitheater and an innovation lab, among other features, such as a second-story terrace with views of the Fore River.

In addition, according to Waynflete, the building is one of the largest structures in Maine built to Passive House standards; it incorporates superinsulation, and fresh air is continuously ventilated for extreme energy efficiency.

The Lower School consists of two buildings, one a former stable built more than 100 years ago that was completely renovated, and the new section, which replaces an aging classroom wing built in the 1960s.

The new Lower School and gym represent the largest construction and renovation project in the school’s history, according to school leaders. Waynflete was originally founded in 1898 and occupies 5 acres in a tight-knit residential neighborhood.

A new Lower School was part of the institution’s long-term strategic plan and the overall goal was to “meet the teaching and community needs of our youngest students” while creating “better opportunities for active learning,” the school’s website states.

“The new facility (provides) a more accessible learning environment and the essential spaces needed to engage students in hands-on exploration,” the website adds.

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony, Chris Smith, president of the Waynflete School board, called the opening of the new Lower School “a joyous occasion” that took a lot of hard work in both fundraising and planning.

He said the school is “a spectacular space that will anchor our campus for generations. We’ve achieved a result we can all be proud of. It’s your generosity that allowed this building to become a reality. What a fantastic result for our kids.”

Smith said construction of the new Lower School shows what can be accomplished when “you think big and take risks.”

Anne Scribner Hopkins, director of the Lower School, said “what an exciting and proud day,” adding that “there’s been no shortage of superlatives” to describe the new school building, with students calling it “amazing.”

“I’m lucky that I get to work and play in this beautiful building,” she said while lauding the light-filled spaces and the new library. “This is truly a place where our students can continue to flourish.”

Kate Irish Collins can be reached at 710-2336 or kcollins@theforecaster.net. Follow Kate on Twitter: @KIrishCollins.

Students, staff and others gather at Waynflete on Portland’s West End on Sept. 14 to officially open the institution’s new Lower School with a ribbon-cutting.

Having light-filled spaces provides students at Waynflete’s new Lower School with the opportunity to “look out at the world,” said Head of School Geoff Wagg.

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