Groundbreaking today for Hockaday addition

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

Page 21A

Officials of The Hockaday School will break ground Wednesday for an addition to its Lower School, the first step in a $27.5 million expansion and renovation of the school’s buildings.

“It’s a very exciting time for the school,” said Liza Lee, the school’s headmistress. “We haven’t really done any major building since the mid-1980s. None of our students has really seen a major building project.”

In April, the private girls’ school announced a five-year campaign to raise $50 million for facilities, endowment and operating support. Officials say the effort is the largest fund-raising campaign for a girls’ school in the nation.

Of that total, $27.5 million is being set aside for facilities, and Wednesday’s groundbreaking will be the first tangible evidence of that money being put to use. The 27,000-square-foot Lower School addition will include classrooms for kindergarten and preschool classes, art and music rooms and two commons areas. It also will include renovated space for science labs and a play yard. School officials expect it to be finished by August 2001 at a cost of $5.25 million.

The school’s kindergarten and preschool classrooms originally were designed for first through third grades and lack some of the space and amenities that research suggests is optimal for early childhood education, Mrs. Lee said.

“This has been in the planning stage for about two years, and in the wishing stage for about 10 years,” she said.

Next summer, the old kindergarten and preschool classrooms will be torn down to make way for an academic research center. Hockaday also has plans for a new wellness center and a major renovation of classrooms for middle and upper school students.

The overall project is the biggest building effort the school has had since its current campus was built in 1961, Mrs. Lee said.

Only six months after announcing the campaign, Hockaday has received commitments totaling $28.4 million, including eight gifts of $1 million or more. Beyond the facilities upgrades, the campaign will fund financial aid, technology upgrades and the school’s endowment.

“Dallas has always been an incredibly generous community, but with these economic times, it has been especially generous,” Mrs. Lee said. “Every school in town has a capital campaign going on.”

Despite all the planned construction, Hockaday officials said they do not plan to increase the school’s enrollment, which is a little more than 1,000.

The Hockaday School, on Welch Street in North Dallas, was established in 1913 as a college-preparatory school for girls. It has an endowment of more than $50 million.