Independent School Guide 2019-20

Atlanta magazine’s 2019 directory includes schools that are members of or accredited by Cognia (formerly AdvancED), the Southern Association of Independent Schools (SAIS), or the Atlanta Area Association of Independent Schools (AAAIS). The schools have campuses in metro Atlanta’s 12 core counties: Cherokee, Clayton, Cobb, DeKalb, Douglas, Fayette, Forsyth, Fulton, Gwinnett, Hall, Henry, and Rockdale. —RESEARCHED AND COMPILED BY JENNIFER COLTRIN

Editor’s note: Data was compiled in September 2019 from surveys sent to the schools. The “What’s New” question was optional. N/A = not applicable; data N/A = data not available

What's new on campus

New is the word for students across the metro area. New leaders are welcoming them, new classes are challenging them, and new facilities are enhancing their campus experiences. Read on to discover more of what’s new at local schools. –H.M. CAULEY

Illustrations by Kirsten Ulve

BUILDING A BETTER SCHOOL

In December, construction starts on a new, three-story lower school facility at Pace Academy. The 36,500-square-foot space includes STEAM and design classrooms, a makers space, soundproof areas for music programs, meeting and conference rooms, a performance area, a faculty lounge, administrative offices, and an indoor gym with access to the playground. The project is part of a $50 million capital campaign that also covers extensive renovations to the school’s iconic “castle” (a landmark building built in 1932). The new building is expected to open for the 2021–2022 school year. paceacademy.org

SCHOOL COMMUTE

Buckhead’s Lovett School has launched several initiatives to deal with traffic on and around campus, and a new program this fall is having a direct impact. Student buses now circulate through Brookhaven/North Buckhead and Morningside/Garden Hills. The two routes remove approximately 54 cars from the campus grounds. As part of the effort to address congestion, Lovett has also designated carpool parking areas and partnered with Georgia Commutes, an Atlanta Regional Commission program that aims to take single-occupant cars off the roads. Twenty-three employees participate by carpooling, biking, and walking. lovett.org

LEADERS OF THE PACK

To develop student leaders and give them a strong voice in decisions, Greater Atlanta Christian School has inaugurated a prefect program this fall. The seniors selected will form committees in a variety of areas, including admissions, service, and academics, and will oversee students who join the committee. In addition, prefects will work closely with faculty and administration, who will serve as mentors to the young leaders. GAC President Scott Harsh says the students will have “real jobs to do” while also gaining greater access, voice, and influence in the life of the Norcross school. greateratlantachristian.org

INNOVATION STATION

The Spring Fling at Mt. Bethel Christian Academy was more than seasonal fun. This year, it raised money to underwrite a middle school innovation lab, where students in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades have the resources to turn the lessons of technology, design, and engineering courses into reality. A digital fabrication center houses three printers as well as machines to cut wood and metal. Oversized monitors give kids a realistic view of their 3D designs. A virtual reality zone is outfitted with Oculus headsets, while a smart whiteboard is part of a collaboration area. And those hoops hanging from the ceiling aren’t just decorative; they are targets for drones that put aerospace concepts to the test. The space is also home to the Marietta school’s robotics teams with members from grades five through 12. mtbethelchristian.org

COMMON GROUND

Atlanta Speech School’s former library has been transformed into The Learning Commons, a contemporary, collaborative space with a STEAM focus where students can work on projects, tinker, create, and brainstorm. Walls were removed and the space reconfigured to create a discovery zone with moveable shelves and areas outfitted with 3D printers, a digital microscope, and multimedia touch boards. Electric outlets across the floor allow students to plug in from wherever they’re working. Director of Library Services Peggy Helmly says the new space also serves as a reminder that the 400-student school is not only about arts and literature, but also offers a strong math and science curriculum as well. atlantaspeechschool.org

ROOM TO GROW

In the last four years, the LIFE School has outgrown its Castleberry Hill facility. To accommodate the expanding student body, a new site was acquired that also salvages a bit of the city’s history. The former Daily Report newspaper space at 190 Pryor Street now houses the school, with open seating areas, a study room, a kitchen, and more in about 6,000 square feet—about three times the size of its original space. This year’s enrollment has 40 students in grades nine through 12, but the new location can accommodate up to 70. thelifeschool.co

CODE OF CONDUCT

Along with Hebrew and Spanish, coding is now an additional language offering at the Epstein School for students from pre-K through grade eight. According to elementary principal David Welsher, coding provides an understanding of putting information in sequential order and triggers different parts of the brain, just as other languages do. Additionally, it promotes problem solving and collaboration. The youngest learners will work offline using codable robots to learn the basics then move onto programs designed to teach coding with arrows rather than text. From there, they can move to coding stories with characters, actions, and words. The school is also incorporating coding into the general curriculum. epsteinatlanta.org

CAUSE AND EFFECT

Twenty-two sixth graders at the Decatur-based Friends School of Atlanta are taking on a new challenge this year. Quaker Advocacy Studies is a yearlong program that dives deep into the current concerns of students. Along with researching issues, students will meet with local legislative representatives who can affect change and teach them how to advocate for their causes. The program culminates at the end of March with a three-day event in Washington, D.C., where students will engage other Friends scholars in workshops and programs relating to their research. At the end of this pilot year, the school will evaluate the experience and consider expanding it to the entire 184-member student body. friendsschoolatlanta.org

BUSY AS BEES

That buzz emanating from Springmont School’s Sandy Springs campus is the sound of bees. Through a grant from The Bee Cause Project, the school is now the proud owner of a hive plus beekeeping gear, teaching materials, and supplies. A second hive was acquired through a Springmont family gift, and heavy-duty bee suits were purchased so students can observe the bees up close. The creatures are being incorporated into the curriculum in themed lessons about the school’s pollinator gardens. The newcomers join the school’s preexisting animal collection, which includes sheep, goats, and chickens. springmont.com

TEACHING COMPASSION

Faculty members from Emory University’s Emory-Tibet Partnership are teaming with the Davis Academy this academic year to develop cognitively based compassion training (CBCT) for teachers. The training focuses on increasing compassion for oneself and others through mindfulness in a way that promotes resiliency and healthy dispositions. The academy opted to pair with Emory because of the university’s extensive experience in the field and its proximity to the Davis campus. davisacademy.org

DYSLEXIA DEBUNKED

The Schenck School, a school for dyslexic children and the oldest elementary of its kind in the country, was singled out to work on a partnership with the nonprofit group Made by Dyslexia, founded by Sir Richard Branson. Also on board is Microsoft, which joined the effort to develop a series of online courses designed to increase awareness and change perceptions of dyslexia from a disability to a valued difference. Five videos were released in January 2019; the next series debuted in October. In spring 2020, the nonprofit plans to bring a film crew to the school to record instructional videos for teachers around the globe to use in their classrooms for dyslexic learners. schenck.org