Wheeling Country Day Expands To Sixth Grade

Wheeling school has enrollment of nearly 190

Photo by Heather Ziegler Wheeling Country Day School students examine a weather balloon project they have undertaken. From left front are Elizabeth Hofreuter, head of school; Brently Snyder, student; and Luke Hladek, teacher/director of advancement; back row, Aaron Chao, Syndey Burke and Erin Maxwell.

WHEELING — Stepping onto the campus of Wheeling Country Day School on a warm spring day last week, it was obvious there is something unique, welcoming and wonderful happening there.

Students were engaged in outdoor classroom activities in the green spaces of the campus. The classroom courtyard included a teacher passing a football with students. On the porch, more students sat in rocking chairs as they read from books with their teacher. All were making the best of a beautiful day of learning.

Wheeling Country Day, located on Orchard Road in Wheeling’s Woodsdale neighborhood, has been educating students since 1929 as an independent school. It has morphed from its original enrollment of seven girls to today’s preschool through fifth grade classes with an enrollment of nearly 190.

That number will increase with the start of the 2019-20 school year when a sixth grade class will be in place.

Already filled for the new school year, the sixth grade class marks the start of the board and administration’s objective to add a middle school curriculum that will eventually include seventh and eighth grades, according to Head of School Elizabeth Hofreuter. The sixth grade will be incorporated into the current learning spaces at the school, however, Hofreuter said Country Day is looking to expand at another yet-to-be determined location.

“We are looking locally, both in West Virginia and in Belmont County. We already have partnerships with Shadyside and Bridgeport schools and we are looking for space for the middle school to eventually be separate from the elementary school,” Hofreuter said.

She explained that in education, middle school students are somewhat overlooked as compared to the younger children and high schoolers.

“We pay a lot of attention to elementary and high school kids in today’s education system. Middle school students need and deserve their own space,” Hofreuter added.

Hofreuter said the school is always looking at ways of upping the learning process. Each trimester, students are tasked with a project that presents a problem — sometimes environmental, health-related or humanitarian — and are asked to develop a plan to remedy the problem. The project encompasses many thoughts of study from math to science and more “deep thinking.” At the end, students present their projects to the school, parents and public.

“They might not always have the answer to the problem, but they learn so much through the thought process,” she said. “We want them to be excited about their projects and not think of it as just homework when they go home.”

Luke Hladek, director of advancement and summer camp director at the school, said he endorses the school’s mission for students and teachers to “learn something new every day.”

“I definitely believe in out-of-the-box activity … I embrace the weird, what’s exciting and different,” said Hladek, who has been with the school for nearly nine years.

He said the students’ projects teach the children to ask for help when needed. Hofreuter said the school utilizes the talents of many people in the Ohio Valley as “experts in residency” who come in and offer their expertise to the students and their projects. The school also partners with Bethany College, Wheeling Jesuit University, Ohio University Eastern with college students sharing time and the education process with the students. There also are collaborations with Oglebay Institute, the Good Zoo, and several Pittsburgh facilities to provide a well-rounded education that includes the arts.

As director of Country Day’s summer camp, Hladek incorporates learning with fun summer activities. Hofreuter said summer camp acts as a continuation of the learning process, equaling a nearly year-round school. He and his students have developed weather balloons and other hands-on projects.

Today the school offers six buildings that feature new, state-of-the-art learning spaces where students develop their creativity, collaboration, critical thinking, communication and character. The 6-acre campus includes a stream that serves as a study in the sciences.

For more information about the school and its programs, call 304-232-2430.

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