In the belief that the best way for children to learn and to develop life skills is through discovery, play and developmentally appropriate instruction in a safe and enriching environment, STELC provides a variety of engaging and fun experiences guided by highly skilled and caring teachers. Learning centers provide the basis for creative play and rich language development. Exploration of the natural world is integral to the school’s program, and this is reflected in its facilities, which seek to reduce barriers between indoor and outdoor learning.
The STELC student body is culturally diverse and currently serves 125 children. About 10% of the students are from St. Thomas Episcopal Church families, while the rest are from the greater College Station community. In fact, many are the children of graduate students at Texas A&M University. Financial assistance is provided to those in need, with between 8 and 10% of families receiving discounted tuition each year.
Challenges with the Current Facility
Since 1975, STELC has operated out of Silvey House, an old home on the St. Thomas Church grounds. Additional classrooms are located in the church’s Ministry Center, as well as the Woodcock and Oxley Buildings. These double as classrooms and meeting spaces for the church. Many times, school activities such a music class or lunch, have to be altered to accommodate the vibrant and growing church community needs. On the other hand, church use of the space is constrained to accommodate school use.
Silvey House is now 75 years old, and although the building has great character, it is too small and increasingly costly to repair. The following facilities challenges reduce the safety and integrity of the learning environment, distract from the school’s mission and programs, and place growing pressure on the school’s budget:
• The capacity of existing school buildings is too small. STELC currently operates nine classes, two afternoon programs and afterschool programs out of seven classrooms
• The classroom layout hinders effective teaching and supervision, complicates security, and is making it difficult to maintain increasingly specific and stringent state licensing standards.
• There are multiple drop off and pick up areas complicating parking lot safety and school security.
• Because the school’s teachers and staff are fully committed to maintaining a safe learning environment, they constantly have to deal with safety and logistical challenges that divert precious time and attention away from teaching and learning.
• Silvey House is beginning to lose its integrity. If not addressed, this loss of structural integrity will reduce the health and safety of the learning environment and continue to result in costly and extensive repairs.
• The building is not energy efficient, and the air conditioning system requires frequent repairs.
• Restrooms, which young children need often and quickly, are not easily accessible from the school’s outdoor spaces, creating both logistical and safety challenges.
St. Thomas Early Learning Center quietly launched a campaign in November 2013 to raise $1.4 million to replace Silvey House, acquire property adjacent to the school and repurpose the historical buildings on that sight. A new facility that contains three classrooms and restrooms that are accessible to the outdoors for children with ample porch space to encourage outdoor activity will be built on the approximate footprint of Silvey House. The classrooms will be appropriately scaled for young children and conducive to the school’s center-based teaching model and emphasis on the natural world.
The property adjacent to the school was acquired in May 2014. The historical Red Brick House will be converted into administration space for the school and meeting space for the school and community. The adjacent building on the property will be converted into an art cottage for art, music and afterschool enrichment programs.
While modernizing the facility and bringing everything up to current building and licensing standards are top priorities, STELC is absolutely committed to maintaining the charm and feel of Silvey House and ensuring that the new building will be harmonious with its surroundings. Accordingly, the design of the new building will be consistent with the “English village” style that characterizes the other structures on the greater St. Thomas campus.
Leadership and Timeline
The STELC Head of School, Beth Lawrence, is passionate about and completely committed to the vision of the school and this campaign. The capital campaign is being led by Robin and Hays Glover, parents of three former STELC students. Jack McFarlane, parent of three former STELC students, leads the building team. Dr. Jan Hughes is President of the Board of Trustees. Our goal is to break ground on the new facility in June of 2016.
For more information about our new facility, please contact Head of School Beth Lawrence to learn more about the project, email email@example.com.