The 50th anniversary of The Salisbury School -- later than originally planned due to pandemic restrictions – will include several events this weekend, plus the joyful anticipation of student reunions and a visit from Malcolm Holzman, the New York City architect involved in the design of the unique building.
“We’d love to see our former students and parents return and tour the school again,” said Hilary Lynch, who handles public and media relations for the school.
On Friday, May 20, there will be a golf outing at the Green Hill Country Club, with check-in at 11 a.m. and shotgun start at noon and prizes and social time afterward.
On Saturday, May 21, there will be an open house and Family Fun Day on campus from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. All campus buildings will be open. Family Fun Day on the lower school grounds will feature activities such as forest yoga, a bubble field, tie dye station and free Italian ice. The Kitchen food truck will be there, selling lunch selections.
The Grand Celebration will be at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday and is being described as “an event to remember as we honor the people and traditions that make The Salisbury School an institution like no other.”
“The evening will feature great food, an abundance of memories and a performance that could only come from the spirit of TSS. Attire is formal with creative flair so everything from 1970s vintage to your favorite cocktail wear is encouraged. The event is partially on grass so choose your footwear accordingly,” a promotional news release states. For tickets, see thesalisburyschool.org.
“Our building is a unique building. It’s different from any other school,” Lynch told the Salisbury Independent.
“We have a triangular tunnel that kids walk through, huge windows in every classroom, an open plan inside, the concept of experiential learning. It was just coming into being then, getting away from learning by rote, and more getting hands-on. We have big windows so kids can be outside and inside at the same time, all big windows with a feeling of openness and space. It inspires much broader things,” Lynch said.
With a mission of being a community of learners who “reach their individual potential through an experiential, college-bound curriculum,” the school takes a whole-child approach and “strives to promote a love of learning in an atmosphere in which individual students are encouraged to compete only with themselves as they strive to achieve a level of excellence that reflects their best personal effort and full potential.”
Incorporated in 1969 with the belief that, “the basic purpose of education is to help the learner to learn, and that the method of this education is more important than the content,” The Salisbury School opened at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Fall 1970. After two years in rented space, a school building was constructed in 1972 on 18.5 acres on Hobbs Road. Designed by the award-winning Hardy, Holzman and Pfeiffer Associates of New York, the layout was guided by experiential learning “in a broad and deep exploration of core curriculum complemented by a commitment to the arts, physical health and personal development,” according to promotional material.
Traditions including the morning handshake at the tunnel door, Global Awareness Day, Give and Receive Day and All-School Read Day continue and have “served to keep TSS students grounded and to open their eyes to the wider world.”
The school grew year by year, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grades until 1996, when parents, with the administration, decided to expand and include an upper school. The unique domed building, also designed by Hardy, Holzman and Pfeiffer, had the first graduating class in Spring 2001.
In 2005, middle school students got a home designed by the local architectural company Becker Morgan Group. The three buildings, with open plan designs, multi-use flexible gathering spaces and natural light, reflect the school’s belief that “education is a dynamic relationship of shared responsibility between the students and teachers.”
Current enrollment at The Salisbury School is 366 students in Pre-K3 through 12th grades.
“The school is intentionally kept small. With students in smaller groups, there is a lot of individual attention. We can accept a few more in middle and high school because the classes divide further depending on course choice. Generally, there are 25 students per class with two teachers in each class, so there are about 12 kids to the teacher. In high school there can be four students in a in a class for more discussion and more interaction,” Lynch said.
During the years, The Salisbury School has had five headmasters, including current Headmaster Beverly Dearing, formerly a teacher there.
In a letter to friends, parents and visitors, published on the school’s website, Dearing wrote: “Learning beyond the walls of our classrooms is constant. Students can be found working in our garden, tending our beehive, performing at a home for the elderly, hiking the Appalachian Trail or even walking the Great Wall of China. They learn to strive for success on the sports field while always demonstrating good sportsmanship.
“Our many grade level stage productions and all-school musicals help our students develop the poise to perform in front of audiences, and our community service projects and clubs give our students the opportunity to realize even one person, no matter how young, can make our community, our country, and our world a better place.”