Seven years ago, a small arts enrichment preschool opened in a Leesburg strip mall. Three teachers taught art, music and dance to 15 students. It was the beginning of the Destiny School for the Arts.
Now, the school’s leaders have their sights set on expanding the program into a full elementary school.
Destiny School, now housed in a historic plantation manor on South King Street, offers preschool and kindergarten programs. But, starting this fall, will enroll first-grade students. The plan is to add a new grade level over the next five years until it’s a comprehensive elementary school.
Jennifer Wigfield, the school’s director, said when Destiny School started, there wasn’t a plan to add a kindergarten program let alone a full slate of elementary classes. But parents kept asking for it. “There’s obviously a demand for it,” she said. “No one else in this area is offering a school experience like this.”
The school enrolls 111 students ages 2 to 5 and incorporates the arts into its regular academic lessons. For example, during a recent morning, 3 year olds sang a song about a construction worker that not only fit into a recent lesson on various career paths, but also helped students work on their math skills, as they counted the man’s tools. Students take art, music, creative movement or dance, and Spanish courses every day. Families can expect the same for the elementary programs.
“We’ve found that what we’ve done has worked well, so we’re going to build on that model,” Wigfield said.
Before she taught at Destiny School, Wigfield taught both fifth grade and students identified as English Language Learners in Loudoun County’s public schools. She said it was frustrating to see the school system cut back on the arts, foreign language in elementary school and support for ELL students in recent years.
“Instead of taking it out we’re emphasizing it,” she said. “There is loads of research about how the arts, foreign language and creativity encourage better brain activity.”
The 260-year-old manor and the 5 acres that Destiny School calls home is as much of a story as the program’s curriculum. The property was once part of Greenway Farms, owned by Capt. William Greenway in the 1700s. It underwent a $2 million renovation before Destiny School moved in 2014.
As the school grows into a full elementary over the next five years, the program will expand into various parts of the property. Class for the second-graders will be in what once served as the master bedroom. Third-graders will meet in the former maids’ quarters; fourth-graders in what was once the fruit cellar; and fifth-grade in the carriage house. Plus, school staff is planting a garden this spring in the same site the Greenways once grew their own fruits and vegetables.
“I love that 250 years later this property has come full circle,” Wigfield said.