Mason Prep celebrates 50th anniversary with a new building

Mason Preparatory School celebrated the grand opening last week of a $5.1 million building that is housing the school’s new kindergarten program.

A new, modern building has changed the landscape and scope of a private downtown Charleston school just in time to close out its golden anniversary.

Mason Preparatory School last week celebrated the grand opening of a new $5.1 million building. The 14,307-square-foot building on Bull Street is housing a new kindergarten program for the school — something that school officials say was needed to meet a growing demand for early childhood education.

“We really felt like the direction enrollment was moving was with parents wanting to make their (school) choice at 5-K rather than first grade,” said Erik Kreutner, Mason Prep’s head of school. “We were seeing parents coming to see us when their children were four years old, and since we didn’t have a kindergarten ... that was posing enrollment challenges for us.”

Having a new building for kindergarten, Kreutner said, was a “critical part of our school’s future.”

Mason Prep started its kindergarten program last fall with two classes in portable classrooms. Those students moved into the new building with the first- and second-graders in February. The school currently serves 348 students in grades K through 8 spread across two buildings at the corner of Halsey Boulevard and Bull Street.

Penny Wilson, chair of the school’s Board of Trustees, said the new building is a far cry from when her mother, Nancy Hawk, founded Mason Prep in 1964 in the basement of their home on Meeting Street. The school launched a capital campaign for the new building as part of the wind up to its 50th anniversary celebration this school year.

The result has been a building that the children describe as a “tree-top classroom,” Wilson said, that offers larger classrooms, big windows and “learning spaces” outside of the classrooms for group activities.

“It’s very exciting,” Wilson said.

The new building is the second of three phases of improvements to Mason Prep’s campus. The school completed renovations on its middle school building last summer. And plans are in the works to build a student activity center at the corner of Montagu Street and Halsey Boulevard to house a full size gymnasium and four more classrooms.

Kreutner said the goal is to provide updated facilities that offer more flexibility to “teach in ways students learn today,” which he said is “not just in rows of desks.”