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Currents: a ground-breaking experience

Colby-Sawyer Colleges Breaks Ground for New Windy Hill School

On an overcast Thursday in mid-October, with Ragged Mountain and Mount Kearsarge looking on in their full autumn glory, Colby-Sawyer College hosted a ground-breaking ceremony for its new Windy Hill School, the college's early childhood laboratory school that offers toddler, nursery and primary programs. The young Windy Hill students, equipped with hard hats and shovels, were a major part of the celebration at the site behind Colby Farm for their new school.

Joining in the celebration were many of the college's Child Development, Early Childhood Education, and Psychology students; Windy Hill teachers, parents and alumni; faculty; as well as the Board of Trustees, President Tom Galligan, and other college community members.

The ground-breaking marked another chapter in the story of building a new school that will best serve the needs of both our Windy Hill and Colby-Sawyer students. In 2005, a comprehensive review determined that the school's programs should ideally reside in one building, which could offer better facilities and more space and convenience. Currently, the school is housed in the basements of two residence halls.

Two years ago, a family that wishes to remain anonymous started the college on a path to meeting that goal.

“They told us they appreciated the excellent teaching and learning taking place at The Windy Hill School and that they understood the constraints of its space and location,” President Galligan told those assembled for the ceremony. “They wanted to make it possible for the college to create a home for Windy Hill, specifically designed to support early childhood education.

"The family worked with us and we determined that to fulfill the dream would cost $2 million," he continued. "Soon thereafter, the college received a $1 million challenge grant from this special family. Although we continue to work on raising funds to meet the challenge, we have made excellent progress so far. Based on that success, our Board of Trustees voted to begin the construction to bring the Windy Hill dream to fruition.”

The Windy Hill School was founded on campus in 1976 and currently serves 70 to 85 toddler-to-kindergarten-age children. With 11 licensed teachers, it offers an after-school program for children in grades one to three, and a summer program for children up to age six.

Chairman of the Board of Trustees Anne Winton Black '73, '75, sporting a blue-and-white hard hat, expressed gratitude for the exceptional generosity which continues to shape Colby-Sawyer's future.

“The children who come to the Windy Hill School are being given a great gift by their families. Likewise, the donors who have made this new lab school a possibility are partners in that gift and should take great joy in knowing that they are touching the lives of these school children, but also of our college students,” said Trustee Winton Black. “The Windy Hill School has for many years been a signature program at Colby-Sawyer College and today we celebrate the beginning of a wonderful new chapter in its distinguished history.

“The love of learning is being cultivated in our Windy Hill School students and protected by the faculty and college students who inspire the children who are in their care," Trustee Winton Black continued. "Our donors have given selflessly of their resources to make possible a beautiful new building. Let them, and all who pass through the Windy Hill School, find a place that cherishes the child, celebrates the teacher, and gives generations of college students the finest of academic experiences.”

With colorful tiny cupcakes, apple cider and warm drinks beckoning, and the Windy Hill students anxious to use their shovels in an adult-sanctioned dirt-throwing exercise, President Galligan concluded his remarks by recognizing Associate Professor of Social Sciences and Education and Director of the Windy Hill School Janet Bliss.

The dream of a new Windy Hill school had been fostered, nurtured and advanced by many people. “Most particularly, we tip our hat today to our friend and colleague, Janet Bliss, the director of the Windy Hill School for 31 years,” said President Galligan. “And we also tip our hat to all the Windy Hill teachers and to our colleagues in Social Sciences and Education.

"Finally, there is deeply felt gratitude to the family whose challenge made today possible and to the many other friends of the college whose greatly appreciated contributions brought this long-awaited project to this moment," he concluded. "A generous wind of support continues to blow across this wonderful home on the hill, and its result will be a beautiful, fully functioning Windy Hill School.”

And with that, the hard-hatted youngsters dug their small shovels into the New Hampshire dirt, staking their claim on the project and moving Colby-Sawyer one day closer to the reality of a new unified and beautiful Windy Hill School.

-Kate Dunlop Seamans, October 2009