‘Everything is different’: Friends Academy renovates, redesigns middle school building

Sep 28, 2023

After just one summer of construction, Friends Academy opened the doors to its brand new learning space: the renovated Clay Stites building, which serves as the middle school building. 

The entire interior was demolished, including a large staircase in the building’s center. 

While the look of that staircase will be missed, its removal means the center floor of the building is now wide open, which allows for a central community space for students and staff. Tables and chairs now dot the interior hallways, and all-gender restrooms join each floor. 

“I believe in middle schoolers being in community with each other,” said Head of School Ben Kennedy. “I really believe that our human culture is what supports us.”

Friends Academy is a private school that enrolls kids from early childhood to eighth grade. 

The change was especially visible to the 8th grade students, who spent the most time in the old space, and even helped raise money for the renovation. 

“Everything is different”, one student shouted as they explored the new building for the first time. 

“This is so cool,” another student exclaimed. 

With the highly abbreviated timeline, the differences seemed pretty drastic: the students only said goodbye to the old building in June. 

“It’s like Christmas morning, all the new toys they want to play with,” said Head of Middle School Tim Cleary. 

Some of those toys include a combination reading nook and bookshelf in one of the classrooms, and desks that can be raised and lowered to allow for sitting or standing. LED light strips also line the top floor of the building where the staircase once was. 

“I think it’s a good change,” said 8th grader Leo. “It’s scary cause I’m going to miss the old building but I think it’s gonna be cool.” 

Leo will miss the old staircase the most, but is excited about the LED lights. 

Math teacher David Lobato will also miss the staircase, which he said he’d lean on from the top floor and be able to see all of the classrooms at once. 

Still, he said he recognizes that “40 percent of the floorspace was taken up by that,” and now students will have a “place to gather, a place for them to sit and chat.”

Friends Academy will host a formal rededication ceremony for the building in April 2024.