The old yellow building on Greenway Drive in Leesburg is taking on a new purpose housing the Destiny School of the Arts for preschool children.
The school of more than 100 students and growing educates its preschool and kindergarten students in academics and the arts. Fifteen teachers and their assistants the children throughout the day. Students learn everything from coloring and art to music and dance.
“They learn by doing their art,” said Jennifer Wigfield, director of Destiny School.
With the removal of early-start foreign language programs in the public schools, Destiny’s administration decided to incorporate the language into their own curriculum. Students as young as 2 begin learning Spanish and get the change to learn German as they get older.
Downstairs, students learn dance in the large-windowed, mirrored studio. They warmup by acting out nursery rhymes with former ballerina Katie Anderson.
The school rents out the studio for yoga classes when not in use.
The school moved to the new location last year, but the ribbon cutting didn’t occur until Jan. 22. While they’ve been in the building since February 2014, it’s their first full school year in the new building.
They renovated the historic plantation manor house owned by Capt. William Greenway in the 1700s. What was once thousands of acres was subdivided, the properties gradually sold.
Not only did the house need updating, but it had to be up to code for a school to move in while balancing the historical integrity of the property.
Originally, the land was zoned for a hotel or gas station. The necessary rezoning made the process of renovation even longer.
Leesburg Mayor Kristen Umstattd came for the ribbon cutting and accepted a piece of art created by the four groups of kindergartners from the school. It will hang in Leesburg’s Town Hall.
“We love it when businesses open, especially this school. They’ve been a delight to work with,” said Umstattd.
Wigfield said the building itself adds to the creative mission of the school.
“The charm, the hardwood floors, the light and the color. It’s just a beautiful place,” she said. “It makes you want to be here.”
Wigfield said her own daughter, who attends the school, doesn’t want to leave at the end of the day.
The school offers something the public schools don’t, according to Wigfield.
Along with the early language learning, the school offers full-day kindergarten and a kindergarten enrichment program. Yet the focus on arts is still the defining characteristic.
“There isn’t that much attention to the arts in [in public schools] as we’d like to see,” Wigfield said.
The history permeates the building despite the modernization and mysteries, too.
One day Wigfield went upstairs to her office to find an envelope addressed to her. A sticky note with the envelope had no name, but said the administration might be interested in what was in the envelope.
Inside were documents on the history of the house, pictures and a 1991 issue of the Loudoun Times-Mirror about the mysteries of the house itself.
As the school grows, they’ll have to use more of the building’s unused space. But the method of learning through doing will continue.
“It makes learning a lot of fun, but [the kids] are also getting really good at this,” Wigfield said.