New Lower School Campus Opens Doors
The excitement was palpable at Westmark School on the chilly morning of December 13. After years of planning, design, and construction, the stunning new Lower School Campus was ready for its formal Dedication Ceremony. Students and parents, faculty and staff, architects, builders, trustees, and community leaders marveled at the state-of-the-art learning environment as they took their seats.
A hush fell over the crowd as Marla Yukelson, Director of Lower School, took the stage. Ms. Yukelson acknowledged the momentous nature of the occasion, then introduced Claudia Koochek, Head of School.
“Today is a milestone during a milestone year,” remarked Ms. Koochek. “As we celebrate forty years since the founding of Westmark School, the dedication of our new Lower School Campus ushers in a new era of educating and empowering our students." As she looked to Grades 2–5, who were seated in the very front rows, she happily declared, "Lower School Lions, this is your new home!"
The completion of the 15,400-square-foot facility underscores a meaningful investment in early intervention for students with language-based learning differences (LD). The capital project not only enables the School to admit more LD students in Grades 2–5, but also to extend the School's reach to children at an even younger age. As Ms. Koochek announced to the delight of the crowd, "Building upon the momentum of this historic opening, I am honored to announce that starting with the 2024–2025 school year, we will open our doors to first grade!"
Ms. Koochek also took the opportunity to recognize Westmark alum and philanthropist Michelle Lund ’88 and The Sharon D. Lund Foundation as the lead donors to the Lower School Campus Project. Their seed funding made it possible to begin realizing the School's bold ambition to create the optimal facility for students with distinct learning styles.
Accepting a gift of appreciation from the community, Ms. Lund made impromptu remarks in which she thanked the School for the strength, skills, and love for learning that she developed at what was then known as Landmark West School. She also shared her perspective as a proud Westmark graduate, encouraging students to appreciate their education at Westmark and look forward to the opportunities it will afford them in the future.
City and state officials offered their congratulations to Westmark during the ceremony as well. First, the Honorable Nithya Raman, LA City Councilmember representing District 4, exclaimed, “I hope this entire city will join me in lifting up this achievement” as she presented a Certificate of Recognition to the School. The certificate included these words of hope and aspiration: “May Westmark School and the Lower School Campus be a continued beacon of learning and growth, fostering the bright futures of the young minds within our city.”
Next, Ms. Koochek invited to the stage representatives of Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, representing the 46th District in the California Legislature: Field Representative Jack Trent Dorfman along with Westmark twelfth grader Ethan M., who is currently interning in the Assemblymember's office.
In his remarks, Ethan acknowledged the role Westmark played in empowering him to secure the internship. He then bestowed a Certificate of Commendation to the School.
Following Ethan’s remarks, James Kilcourse, Chair of the Board of Trustees and the parent of a Westmark alum, reflected upon how years of work made the dream of a new Lower School a reality.
Mr. Kilcourse thanked his fellow Board members and the Westmark team, along with the world-class architecture and design firm NBBJ and the industry-leading builders Suffolk, ”who helped create innovative spaces that prioritize the needs of our distinct learners at every turn.”
Finally, Nancy Branscombe, Vice-Chair of the Board, expressed immense gratitude to the philanthropists who supported this major project.
As Ms. Branscombe noted, none of the donors to the project have a child presently enrolled in Lower School; yet they are paying it forward "so that future generations of students with learning differences continue to find a place of hope, inspiration, love, and acceptance of who they are!”
The ceremony culminated in cheers as Mr. Kilcourse, Ms. Koochek, Ms. Lund, and Ms. Branscombe cut the ceremonial ribbon. As students returned to class, guests explored the new indoor and outdoor spaces and looked forward to January 3, when Westmark's Lower School Lions would finally move into their new, innovatively designed school.
Thank you to ABC7 News for covering the event! Click the play button below to view their recap.