When a school has to have overflow classrooms in a gym and a storage room, that’s generally a sign that it’s time to expand.
That’s just what Honey Tree and Branches Academy is doing.
“Our school has grown so quickly,” says founder Kimberly Fielding.
She started Honey Tree, which is in its eighth school year, with a goal of focusing on early childhood development. Fielding then expanded with elementary school.
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A year and a half ago, the two combined in a new 7,000-square-foot space at 12725 W. 21st St. North, which is between 119th and 135th streets.
“Now everybody see us, and they know us,” Fielding says.
She says they say, “Oh, my gosh, I had no idea you guys were here.”
Fielding says some people explain that they once thought she ran a day care. Now that the school’s reputation is growing, Fielding says she has to turn away potential students.
“Our building is overflowing,” she says of the existing 7,000-square-foot building where all grades currently are taught.
Once the new building is complete, Fielding says the existing building will be used solely for preschool and a pre-K program.
The new building, to the south of the first building, will be for elementary school only.
It will hold 106 students. The first building holds 104 students.
Fielding says the new space will free more room in the first building.
“So we will be able to accept more people for that program.”
She says she expects the new building will be finished by Aug. 10 and be ready for fall classes.
Like the first building, the new one will have its own playground, including a rock climbing wall and a huge area with artificial turf outside.
The property, which is on some former Eberly Farm acreage, has a wooded lot that provides for what Fielding calls a unique play area.
She says she thinks there are several things that set apart Honey Tree and Branches Academy.
Much of it, Fielding says, is related to individualized attention the school gives students.
“I like to cap our elementary classes off at 16.”
She says classes also are grouped by ability and not age so each student can be challenged to the greatest extent.
“I think we’re growing because we provide a very unique educational experience for students,” Fielding says.
That’s potentially going to lead to some more growth at the requests of students’ parents, she says.
“My parents, yes, are pushing for middle school and high school.”
Fielding says she’s looking for someone who would be a good fit to operate those levels.
“I personally don’t think I can undertake that adventure myself.”
Fielding says she needs to keep focusing on early childhood and elementary school.
“That’s my area of expertise.”
There is land around the school for it grow.
“There is land … right beside us (that) I do have the option to purchase,” Fielding says.
She says a parent has also offered to provide land to the west of the school as well.
“That might be able to continue my vision and the needs of the parents.”
With any growth, Fielding says it’s essential to maintain the school’s vision.
“We pride ourselves on personalization with the family and the students,” she says. “That quality control is essential to the program.”