Detroit Country Day School unveils $18M renovation

Candice Williams
The Detroit News

Bloomfield Hills — Updated décor, a wet lab and a full-sized gymnasium are among the numerous new features at Detroit Country Day School's state-of-the-art Lower School building.

School officials opened the doors Tuesday to the sprawling building on West Maple Road to unveil the $18 million renovation and expansion project for the campus that houses its pre-K through fourth-grade classes.

The expansion, completed within a year, adds 72,000-square-feet to the school on the almost 10-acre site, said Headmaster Glen Shilling.

The renovations for the private school are part of a $33 million multi-campus project and a result of a fundraising campaign. A little more than a year ago, the school community celebrated the completion of a 50,000-square-foot addition on to existing middle school building in Beverly Hills.

“The renovated spaces bring a powerful new energy to the way we engage our students at every level from preschool all the way through graduation,” Shilling said before a group gathered outside the school’s entrance.

Pre-K through second-grade general music teacher Judy Pagryzinsky works with students practicing for a holiday concert in the new general music room.

As students walk through the learning spaces, they are greeted by student-created artwork on the walls and hallways that open up into bright collaborative workspaces.

The classroom wings are designed in the style of neighborhoods, with classroom entry porches in the style of Victorian, bungalow or brownstone.

Another highlight of the renovations is the Lower School now has a separate cafeteria and gymnasium.

“When cafeteria was going on, we couldn’t have recess and vice versa,” said Tina Mangalick, director of philanthropy for Detroit Country Day School and a graduate of the school. “Now that we have two separate spaces. It is a very, very big deal. This is such a big deal that we’re able to split it in half with this divider and have two separate gym classes at the same time.”  

Many of the classrooms feature high ceilings. In Sarah Hobart’s second-grade classroom, the ceilings are high, but the acoustic treatments on the walls and in the shape of clouds suspended from the ceiling keep the room from echoing. The light can also be adjusted to fit the moods of the students or the weather outside.

“We have our lights dim most of the time … even during reading and math,” Hobart said. “It keeps the kids calmer. They’ll actually ask to turn the lights off.”

First-graders play games in the new, full-size gymnasium at Detroit Country Day School Lower School.

The renovations for the private school are a result of a fundraising campaign called the VIVID Capital Campaign. Among the donations was a $1 million gift from the Karmanos family to fund a state-of-the-art library and media center. Danialle Karmanos is a board trustee for Detroit Country Day School where her four sons attend.

Karmanos said she was pleased with how the library turned out.

“It’s magical,” she said. “I love the natural light. It feels very optimistic. … It feels like a great space to learn. I also love the four individual learning rooms that are flanking the library so when the kids are in those rooms, they’re looking at all those books.”

Twitter: @CWilliam_DN