The curriculum at Sandhills School in southeast Columbia recently took on a new wrinkle.
A $2.1 million expansion is adding a 9,000-square-foot educational wing and exterior courtyard, and nine classrooms are being renovated. The project, funded by the Darnall W. and Susan F. Boyd Foundation, has generated excitement among faculty and students, some of whom have taken a very hands-on interest.
“Kids are measuring and planning. They really feel like this is an investment in them,” Erika Senneseth, head of school, said. “It’s been really empowering for our students.”
The private, nonprofit school serves children in first through 12th grades with diagnosed learning differences such as dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, and ADHD. The Boyd Foundation building, which will also include a science lab, will feature designated Orton-Gillingham reading intervention rooms and a flexible-use community space.
The Orton-Gillingham approach is a multisensory, structured method of teaching literacy. The Sandhills School, which has been housed in a church and a basement since its founding in 1975, now has 110 students on a 23-acre campus complete with wilderness trails, sports fields and a recreation and arts center.
Boyer Construction Co., the contractor on the Boyd Foundation building, also worked on the arts and recreation center.
“We really enjoyed getting to know the Sandhills folks back on the previous project and appreciate their mission and what they’re doing for children in the community that need a little bit of extra help,” Clay Sharpe, Boyer senior vice president, said. “We consider the Sandhills folks family and look forward to hopefully continuing a long relationship with them.”
The project is Boyer’s first with Boyd Foundation and its president, George Bailey. The foundation, created by late Columbia developer Darnall Boyd and his wife, supports Midlands educational and outdoor projects such as the Columbia Museum of Art’s Boyd Plaza and renovations at Riverbanks Zoo & Gardens.
Bailey has a personal connection to Sandhills. His son attended the school around 15 years ago.
“We feel like they provide students such a unique opportunity for children that need a different learning method,” Bailey said. “We see these kids go to Sandhills and learn how to learn in their own ways, and they come out leaders.”
A project groundbreaking in December featured a parade complete with students wielding shovels. The expansion is scheduled to be finished by the start of the 2021-22 school year.
“It will help us offer intervention for more students and also more space to do it in,” Senneseth said. “Especially this year with COVID, we’re using every square inch of the cafeteria and the library. It will help us serve more students and just really be an investment in the future.”n