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BGA changing the way learning looks, feels with lower school renovation

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Parents and students alike are taking note of the recent updates to Battle Ground Academy’s Lower School campus. 

While the wider hallways, brighter classrooms and updated technology can seem like small changes, they’re making a big impact on the learning experience. 

“Once we saw the renovation plans, not only did we welcome the changes, but we also happily contributed to the capital campaign which funded the project,” Karen Jackson, a longtime BGA parent, said.

The renovation of the Lower School, part of BGA’s larger campus plan, was completed in November. Home to students in grades kindergarten to fourth, BGA’s Lower School campus is located at the gateway to historic downtown Franklin on Franklin Road. The project is about much more than cosmetic changes, though, said BGA’s Head of School Will Kesler.

“We focused on how we could continue to serve our community and make the biggest impact,” Kesler said, referencing the goals of the recently completed renovation to the campus. 

In the spring of 2022, Battle Ground Academy closed its Harpeth Campus doors to begin work on Phase Two of a comprehensive renovation that temporarily relocated students until after the Thanksgiving holiday. A multi-phased project, the renovation will eventually include updates to multiple spaces at the Lower Schoolas well as parking, playgrounds and outdoor spaces. 

“At BGA, we focus on inquiry-based learning, and the level of education we offer is second to none,” said Kesler. “It was time for an update, and we wanted the level of our facilities to reflect the level of education we offer.” 

According to current BGA parent Bari Beasley, the school achieved that goal. 

“We feel so fortunate that an already outstanding school now has more resources as well as upgraded facilities,” Beasley said. “It also still feels like home for the students.” 

As the transformation began, classes were moved to the nearby First Presbyterian Church of Franklin. 

“A transition of this size was an ambitious undertaking,” said Rhonda Bennett, BGA Head of Lower School and Assistant Head of Academic Affairs. “We could not have done it without the extraordinary support from parents, teachers and students and our wonderful relationship with First Presbyterian Church.”

However, Bennett said the greatest reward was seeing the lower school community’s reaction to the renovation. The changes include a new dining hall, a new lab space, and more natural light with wider hallways and higher ceilings, all of which are more conducive to an engaging learning atmosphere, especially for younger children.  

“Developmentally, each age group now has their own space to learn and grow with their peers,” said Bennett. “It is important for children to feel comfortable and motivated in this space as they begin their BGA education.”

The renovation allows BGA to more easily meet the goals outlined in the school’s long-term strategic plan. The updated facilities, designed with BGA’s commitment to inquiry-based learning in mind, give teachers the space and opportunity to foster hands-on learning and critical thinking skills in their students.

The renovation also included a state-of-the-art STEM lab that has enhanced the school’s science and mathematics programs. The space is complete with new equipment and furniture, 3D printers and robotic sets. The new lab sits directly behind the historic Cox House, which is home to the school’s administrative offices. 

“The layout makes it possible to connect the history of the school with forward thinking and innovation,” said Bennett. “We have always appreciated the Harpeth campus’ proximity to downtown Franklin, and we look forward to our continued growth here.”

This attention to detail and desire to build upon BGA’s heritage is something parents appreciated. 

“It is wonderful to witness BGA maintain their commitment to the historic preservation of the Harpeth campus,” said Camille Small, current BGA parent. “Having three children experience their elementary years in the heart of Franklin, a city with so much history and tradition, has truly been a gift.” 

An additional phase of the renovation, which will likely begin within the next few years, will focus on additional parking, covered drop-off areas and updates to the playground. The complete plan also includes redesigning under-utilized spaces on campus for outdoor classroom opportunities. 

“We are confident that the current updates give us the opportunity to springboard our program, and look forward to the future renovations and enhancements,” Bennet said. 

Safety and access were also high priority items throughout the lower school renovation. Additional keycard access and security cameras were installed around the campus for added protection. The renovation also allowed for accessibility updates, making the Harpeth Campus easier to navigate for students, teachers and visitors who use wheelchairs and other mobility devices.  

According to Kesler, the renovation allows BGA to serve future generations of students as the demand for quality education increases. However, to him, it’s the small touches like student artwork in the hallways and smiling faces every day that make the greatest impact. 

“The students and teachers are really what makes BGA such a special place to learn, and we are proud to be able to give them a space that reflects the level of the educational experience,” said Kesler. 

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