Photos by Asia Morris. Renderings courtesy of Westerly School of Long Beach.
On a bright Tuesday morning, Westerly School students, their families, teachers, alumni and faculty gathered to break ground and mark the beginning of a new chapter for the private institution. Over 12,000 square feet of permanent learning studios and support facilities will be added to the campus to replace the resource-draining modular classrooms that have been used since 1993 when the school first opened.
Founded by a group of local parents who said they noticed a gap in K-8 private education, Westerly’s doors opened one week behind schedule with nearly 40 students in attendance, according to the website. The very first school year came to a close with over 50 students enrolled, offering Long Beach families an established new educational option for their potential pupils, the self-described only secular independent school in the city.
The school launched its $5 million capital fundraising campaign in January, entitled “Building Westerly’s Future,” in an effort to raise funds to build permanent learning studios for the 150 Westerly students who still attend class in the aging bungalows.
Chris Rodenhizer, who has served as the private institution’s head of school since 2008 and is set to retire this July, said he couldn’t be more thrilled that Westerly will finally have permanent facilities to support its students and staff.
“This is something the school needs,” he said. “It’s a school that should be in this community. It’s a school that delivers something unique and different and it’s a school of choice for people. So we should have buildings that are permanent, that are reflective of our program, which is very innovative and unique in its style and approach.”
Westerly’s new head of school, Patrick Brown, set to take Rodenhizer’s place on July 1, thanked the community by saying “I am indebted” to the “many children and families who came before us who formed and built Westerly School.”
He said the learning studios are a sign that "Westerly is growing up and ready to affirm and strengthen its place in the Long Beach educational landscape.”
The school raised more than $3.6 million for the project in nine short months, a feat Brown called “nothing short of herculean.”
According to Brown, the finished project will produce the first permanent learning studios on the property besides the Raymond Bizjack Arts Village, which houses Westerly’s music and visual art programs. To date, more than 100 donors, including families, grandparents, alumni and friends of Westerly have rallied together to raise said funds.
Designed by HPA Architecture and interior designer FLO Design Studio, the new studios will be similar in model to the arts complex and will transform the campus to offer clean, safe and flexible spaces for the students to learn and grow, according to a release, while a revitalized quad will serve as the heart and center of the new grounds.