January 5, 2017

A New Era for Friends’ School!

Collaboration Space in our new Middle School building
Tuesday marked a pivotal day in the history of Friends' School. We opened the doors to our new middle school building on our North Campus at 3800 Kalmia Avenue in Boulder. The dream has finally become a reality.

As our first class of sixth-grade students entered the new building for the very first time, they were so excited that they ran around and jumped from one new space to another!  Some of our administrative staff, who also moved into the new building this week, were only slightly more restrained as they happily showed off their bright and spacious offices, which are a huge improvement over the tight quarters they have had for many years.

The new middle school building features a huge, open and comfortable collaboration space, a state of the art maker space, a fine gymnasium, five separate classrooms, a gorgeous welcoming lobby, and more.  This is all without counting the five other classrooms in the older modular building on the campus, where our sixth grade started in August – a building that will eventually become a permanent home to our Teacher Preparation Program.  All of this is set on 2.4 beautiful acres, with stunning views of the Flatirons.


On Wednesday morning, as Director of Middle School Shelby Pawlina gave a tour to several of the sixth-grade parents, she paused in the middle school’s new collaboration space, with its bank of new lockers, fresh carpet with pops of orange and green, varied seating configurations for working alone or in groups, tables, couches, and a giant bean bag. She looked around at all of this and noted happily that the space looked… just how she imagined it would be.
Maker Space

Before his lesson on physics that day, sixth grade teacher Kevin Nugent designed a challenging scavenger hunt for his students, which allowed them to explore all nooks and crannies of their new home. He shared with me the high level of excitement and energy his students have for being in their new school.

Parents and kids alike entered the doors on the first morning of school – their awe was evident in the “wows” we heard from each family.  Our Facilities Manager Chad Lawrence said, “It felt like Christmas morning!”

Teachers and staff worked late on Monday finalizing preparations for the space after our construction crew worked through the school’s winter break to finish the building. Shelby, who with her colleagues posted wonderful sixth grade art to welcome families back, said, “It feels completely electrifying to be here!” Director of Marketing and Communications Meg Hansen remarked on the incredible feeling among the staff as the ‘Friends’ School vibe’ in the building finally came together.

When I asked the students how they felt about being in their new space, they used words like: “Wow! Cool! Big! Modern! Organized! Impressive!”  Sixth grader Tanner, in the car ride home from school, said, dreamily, how much he loved it all.

6th grade classroom
I am filled with gratitude for the incredible hard work, passion and generosity of all the people who made this possible: staff, trustees, parents, donors, our design team, finance and facilities committee members, the construction and landscape crews, and of course, the children and our pioneering first middle school families.

I cannot name everyone who played a significant role in a project of this magnitude.  However, I would like to extend a very special thank you to these individuals:

Elizabeth Henna, Friends’ board chair, who worked tirelessly on all aspects of the project, and who provided initial inspiration for growth now.

Shelby Pawlina, Director of Middle School, who was our principal point person on innumerable details, curricular and construction-related, who formalized our vision for a new kind of middle school and provided passionate leadership.

Jen Cope, Director of Finance and Operations, and Jen Greene, Board Treasurer, who provided exceptional financial leadership and ushered the school through our financing procedures. Jen Cope was also instrumental in multiple operations and facilities related decisions.


Lobby/Art Gallery
Lou Bendrick, Caroline Landry and Jana Bledsoe, in our Development/Advancement office, along with Advancement Committee chair Diane Hullet, who have been and continue to be dynamic, innovative, and indefatigable fund-raisers in support of this project.

Carol Hampf, Friends’ long-time trustee, who spent countless hours advising and shepherding the project through the planning, financial, and permitting processes.

Mike Folwell of Folwell Studios Architecture, who designed a learning environment that is a light, happy, and engaging space that maintains the Friends’ feeling that Mike knows very well having been a parent and trustee for so many years.

Meg Hansen, Director of Marketing and Communications , who gave such inspiration to the design of the interior and landscape, and who documented the process with her great photos.

Stephen Butler, Director of Technology, whose skills and expertise brought state of the art technology into the building and whose behind-the-scenes work allows our staff to keep our two campuses virtually connected.

Kevin Nugent, 6th grade teacher, and the entire middle school faculty:  Diane Bramble, Erika Norman, Kelly Cramer, Rachel Relin, Cory Potash (as well as the aforementioned Stephen Butler and Shelby Pawlina) for their ongoing passion, vision and hard work on behalf of the students.
Foursquare in the gym on a snowy day outside
John Crittenden of Apex Builders, and his entire crew of skilled employees and sub-contractors, for their stellar work and for completing the building on time and under budget.

Chad Lawrence, Facilities Manager, for whom no task is too small, who supported the re-model in its final months, as well as the move into the new building.

Tami Wakeman, who created inspirational interior design for the building and selected beautiful finishes that are appreciated the second you walk in the doors.

Becky Hammond, our landscape designer, and Tom Sunderland, from Native Edge Associates Landscapes, who not only designed a superior landscape plan, but also challenged the students to create their own in a fabulous integrated unit of study.

 I would also like to thank the entire staff and Community Board of Friends’, especially Associate Head Mandy Stepanovsky, who understood and allowed me to spend time on this project, which naturally took time away from other duties.  

This has been a huge and dynamic project that has taken huge amounts of energy to bring about during the best part of two years – energy from our staff and amazing volunteers. 

It was made possible by our staff pitching in extra time and effort to maintain our wonderful preschool and elementary programs while allowing us to grow for the benefit of our entire community. In Friends’ School fashion, we all grew our brains and gained new skills the last two years. It could not have been done without the support of our entire staff and board.

In the words of Board Chair Elizabeth Henna, “the voices and faces today made it all worthwhile.”

I could not be more proud! 

Please let us know when you would like to tour!

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