How OES Decided To Renovate The Lower School

by Graham O.

The recent groundbreaking of the new Lower School building is undoubtedly one of the coolest things to happen this year. The Lower School is the only section of OES that hasn’t had a major upgrade since OES settled into Garden Home-Whitford.

But one has to ask, what’s the process that we had to go through to get this awesome project going? I interviewed Mo Copeland, the Head of School, and found out.

First and foremost, the project has to be approved by the Strategic Planning Committee. The SPC is a group of alumni, faculty, staff, trustees, and parents who are responsible for raising funds, creating projects, and allocating those funds to make things like a new building possible.

“They put together 12 possible areas to improve. Then we crowdsourced that, and we sent it to almost 5,000 different people — past parents, current parents, alumni, the whole faculty and staff,” says Mo, explaining how the process worked.

“We asked people to choose their top four, their bottom four, and the ones they didn’t have much opinion about. We got a huge response. All of that data was taken to the committee, and they made the decision about how to move forward.”

The Lower School building specifically has been in the making for five years. “Five years ago, when we started the master plan for the campus, we identified a number of projects that needed attention. We didn’t do any prioritizing. We just listed what needed to be improved,” said Mo.

After much discussion, the board had finally decided on what project to do first. “The Lower School is the only academic portion that hadn’t be updated. So then we had to raise money. It took us three years to get to 80%, which is the percentage we agreed to reached before starting the groundbreaking.”

As for future projects, we won’t know until the board convenes again in the fall. Although we most recently saw a groundbreaking of a new building, the focus of the next SPC project might be focused on something else.

Although we might not hear a lot about the Strategic Planning Committee, they are a very important part of OES. “It’s a roadmap to what happens next. This board is made up of people who care very deeply about the school and it’s future.”