St. Andrew’s Episcopal School has strengthened their ties to Jackson and to their youngest learners with the opening of their new Early Childhood Center on their lower school campus in Fondren.

On Sunday, hundreds gathered to usher in a new era for the parochial school whose roots trace back to 1947.

“This is a significantly important step in how Mississippi values early childhood education,” said Zakaria Sherbiny, Director of Early Childhood and Associate Head of Lower School. “It’s a tangible step to say our youngest learners are as important as our oldest ones.”

The 32,000 square foot state-of-the-art center will serve pre-K3, pre-K4, and kindergarten with Lois Kennedy Hall and Gertrude C. Ford Hall where there are 14 new classrooms in addition to new spaces for library, chapel, art, science, world languages, dance, and music.

Every classroom and every space is designed to optimize the students’ learning experience. Head of Lower School Tim Alford said, “The vision was to design spaces that accentuate and expand what we already do so well in early childhood education. In their formative years, children learn by interacting with their environments, by moving and touching, and by playing with their peers.”

“This building was crafted with input from the people who will use it most often,” Sherbiny said. “Our children and teachers were an integral part of this collaborative process.”

Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber, who spoke at Sunday’s ribbon cutting and blessing proclaimed, “St. Andrews has done it again.” “You’ve done exactly what our mantra is in this city — to lead and to model. You can go anywhere in the state — in this region — and you will not find a place like this anywhere.” He added, “You have a lot to be proud of.”

Head of School George Penick lead a round of “Go Saints” — a boisterous and excitable cheer from students – for the first time in the building. As he thanked donors, contractors and many others who worked to make the vision reality, Penick talked about the collaborative process.  “This whole complex did not just spring from someone’s brain, but from the input from faculty after many meetings. It’s not based on what St. Andrew’s needed, but what St. Andrew’s wanted to make possible.”

In addition to the Early Childhood Center, construction of a new 65,000 square foot Athletic Center is underway on the school’s Ridgeland campus. Both projects are part of the first stage of the school’s Forward Saints campaign. “St. Andrew’s has long been recognized as the academic leader in Mississippi and is among the top independent schools nationally,” says Penick. “We are thrilled to grow our outstanding programs through this bold vision for the school.” The three stages of the campaign will add more than $30 million in new and renovated facilities that will impact every student at every grade level. Almost $11 million has been raised towards the projects, and soon the school plans to move into the second stage projects.

Related: St. Andrew’s Breaks Ground on Childhood Center