A new year has brought Serviam Girls Academy to a new home, and a few weeks into 2020-21, the students and staff are adjusting nicely to their new environment, according to president Peggy Prevoznik Heins.
Students arrived Sept. 1 for a hybrid start to the year. So, in addition to learning where everything is, they also had to worry about where they would eat lunch and move around the hallways. But the 56 girls in fifth through eighth grade are settling in nicely, Heins said. They had three days of orientation and some standardized testing but are now fully immersed in their regular education.
Serviam moved to Wilmington after 11 years in New Castle at the former Holy Spirit School. The community felt at home there, but with the lease ending, officials had the chance to see if something more advantageous was out there.
“We loved our home in New Castle,” Heins said. “We were tucked so far away, that it provided an opportunity to look elsewhere. When this came up, the central nature of its location, right in the heart of downtown Wilmington, was just ideal.”
“Home” is now Grace Church United Methodist on Washington Street in Wilmington. Heins said the opportunity to be part of the city “really fits with what we want to be.”
The school, she continued, “has the ability to immerse itself into the city and broaden its classroom into the city as its learning laboratory.”
There were other vacant Catholic schools that were possibilities, she said. But they were bigger than what Serviam needed, and most were out of their price range. Some renovations were done at Grace United over the summer since the previous occupant was a preschool that closed about 10 years ago. Heins said they have new flooring, new paint, and renovated bathrooms, which were previously kiddie-sized.
Serviam shares space with the church, including a fellowship hall they can use for stretching and some activities. The school hopes to renovate a large upper room into a gymnasium space and multipurpose space. They could have dance, drama and a half-court basketball floor, Heins said. Over the summer, members of the school community transformed an outdoor space into a community garden, even installing an irrigation system.
The students were supposed to begin various “learning tracks” this year, but that has been put on hold because of the pandemic. When it begins, students interested in the financial industry, for example, can leave the school and visit the banks or financial advisers. They can play the stock market game and learn what jobs are available in that industry, Heins said. There could be a medical track involving hospitals, clinics and physical therapists in the city, she added.
Another option is a service track. The school looks out over Sacred Heart Village, which is operated by the Ministry of Caring. Students could walk over and eat lunch or otherwise volunteer with the elderly residents. The possibility exists to use Sacred Heart Oratory for prayer, Heins said.
“We don’t have to rely on buses, we don’t have to rely on trying to figure things out. We look out the window, there they are. There’s so many opportunities like that,” she said.
Serviam has long had a relationship with Ursuline Academy; in fact, the school’s name is Ursuline’s motto and is Latin for “I will serve.” Heins said Serviam has done programming through Ursuline’s innovation program and is exploring how the partnership can be expanded. Interstate 95 sits between the two schools, but she believes the students from the two schools could work together in person.
“Maybe we could do a joint STEM project, or art project, or drama piece. There’s all kinds of activities,” she said.
Padua Academy has provided dance coaches to Serviam in the past, and Tower Hill School has had volunteers help with the school’s enrichment program over the years. Both of those schools are now closer.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony will take place in October.
All photos courtesy of Serviam Girls Academy.