Sept. 19, 2023 By Michael Dorgan
A Jackson Heights school is celebrating its centenary in style this year with the unveiling of major construction projects, a new lineup of adult programming, and a big celebratory gala in 2024.
Garden School, an independent college preparatory school located at 33-16 79th St., has opened new art classrooms and a music classroom in its high school, while three new classrooms have just opened in its lower school for the visual and performing arts.
Furthermore, the school’s indoor theater located in the school’s gymnasium has been overhauled with new lighting, new sound equipment,and new curtains, according to Chris Herman, head of school at Garden School. Construction began the day after students broke for the summer and was completed the day before they returned for the new school year.
“The new spaces are beautiful and the reaction by students and staff has been so exciting,” Herman said.
The redevelopments are part of a strategic plan the school adopted in January 2021. The plan, called “Garden’s Road to 100,” is a multi-year project that sets out how the school intends to grow, bring its facilities up to date and become financially sustainable.
Some of the upgrades were completed over the last number of years, including the construction of a new fitness center and a new student lounge, while the entrance to the school gymnasium has also been remodeled. All of the windows throughout the school have been replaced, too, Herman said, and high school classrooms have been revamped with new lighting and furniture.
Herman said the upgrades mark an important milestone as the school looks back proudly on its 100-year history with big plans in place for the future.
For instance, the school is also embracing STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) educational methods and last year it opened a new science lab, with a new engineering lab in the works for 2024.
Garden School also has an underwater robotics program where students build remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) called sea perches and then operate the devices in the school’s outdoor pool.
“It’s so fun when you get to see kids doing crazy innovative stuff or driving robots,” Herman said. “We aspire to be the cutting-edge of education and an innovative space for teaching.”
Students singing at the school’s new music classroom
Herman said Garden School is a place where serious artists and musicians come to learn, foster their talents and create. It counts actors James Caan and Adrien Broody as its past students, along with Roger Kimmelm who is vice chairman of Rothschild Inc., an investment banking firm.
Garden School teaches students from nursery school through Grade 12 and continues to attract students from the local area. The school has seen a 25% increase in student numbers over the last four years, with 475 students currently enrolled, according to Herman.
Herman said the school is also expanding its programming to adults and educators with the launch of its Community Resource Center this fall. The center aims to be a hub to share knowledge and training across a variety of topics including literacy, arts, movement, technology and wellness.
The programming will consist of teacher workshops, parenting workshops, an entrepreneurial educators summit, and a leadership panel featuring Assembly members Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas and Andrew Hevesi, Council member Shekar Krishnan and Deputy Queens Borough President Ebony Young.
Garden School will cap off its centenary celebrations with a massive gala on April 19 at Terrace on the Park, located at 52-11 111th St., where dozens of alums are expected to attend and reminisce about their time at the school. The gala will feature live performances, auctions, and a video looking back on the school’s achievements over the last 100 years.
“This will be a very big event and we are really looking forward to it,” Herman said. “The gala — and everything that we are doing this year — will be about honoring our 100-year legacy and then we’ll look at what our next 100 years is going to look like [and] how we are moving ahead with all these ambitious plans to meet the demands of the 21st century.”