Princeton Junior School expands, will add 6th-grade class in September

Princeton Junior School, a private school located in Lawrenceville near the border of Princeton that emphasizes experiential, hands-on learning, has expanded its campus and will begin accepting sixth graders for the fall of 2021.

The school, which has been open for in-person learning since Sept. 1, was able to purchase 3.2 acres of additional land last year and will add a sports pavilion, a performing arts center, and a STEM shop to the campus. Possible future plans include an atrium swimming pool.

Founded in 1983, the school was originally housed in a Princeton church and had just a handful of children. It quickly outgrew its space, and now accepts 100 students per year. After expanding to three separate locations simultaneously and conducting a search for the ideal campus, a 10-acre tomato farm in Lawrenceville was chosen because of the outdoor environment that fit with the school’s learning philosophy, which emphasizes the importance of children’s natural surroundings.

The Princeton Junior School bought about seven acres of the tomato farm and built a schoolhouse there. The other 3.2 acres of the farm, which included a 4,500-square-foot stone house known as the William Phillips Tavern, were bought by a family, the Morgans. The tavern building is designated as a historic landmark in Lawrence and could not be altered for school use.

In early 2020, after 28 years of sharing the property, the Morgans decided to move and offered the school the opportunity to buy the property. “The timing of this terrible pandemic could have easily interrupted the chance for the Princeton Junior School to fully realize our school’s long-held dream of expanding,” said Head of School Silvana Nazzaro Clark. “Thanks to the relationship our co-founders established with our neighbors and the unfailing support of our board of trustees, there remained a glimpse of hope.”

Steve Ginzbarg, a family friend of Clark, stepped forward with the largest-ever single donation to the Princeton Junior School, making it possible for the school to purchase the Morgan property. “The timing and generosity of this gift aligned perfectly with our vision to optimize the childhood experience, rooted in the school’s mission and history,” said Princeton Junior School Board of Trustees President Rob Robertson. “We have been poised to expand the facilities for the past several years. This generous gift from the Ginzbarg family has allowed us to do that.”

The Ginzbarg donation, along with support from other school donors, made it possible for the school to expand and add new facilities. The school’s new sports pavilion is being installed this spring. The performing arts center is slated to open in the fall of 2021. It will feature a theater space, a dance hall, a backstage “bungalow”, and a lobby. The theater, to be located within an existing barn on the new property, will be named the Hana N. Ginzbarg playhouse in memory of Steve Ginzbarg’s mother, who escaped the Nazis in Czechoslovakia and came to the United States on a cargo ship.

The expansion also made it possible to add a sixth-grade class to the school beginning in the fall. Clark said school leaders believe the Grade 6 students’ learning experience is bolstered by having them with other children, rather than pushing them into social dilemmas with an adolescent cohort too soon. The school offers mixed-age classroom suites and has a co-teacher model that Clark said allows for personalized, robust academics while maximizing social-emotional learning.

Princeton Junior School Co-Founder Juliana McIntyre Fenn said current fifth graders, who have had to forego many traditional experiences of the graduating class because of the pandemic, are looking forward to becoming the first sixth grade in the school’s history. “They will graduate into a world that has been transformed forever by a global pandemic. As we accompany them through their final year, may we continue to seek the wisdom essential to their present and future life.”

Princeton Junior School is located at 3270 Lawrenceville Princeton Road (Route 206) in Lawrenceville.