Language immersion school graduates to larger space

Susana Mulcahey works with elementary school students at Heartwood Grove. Photos by Katie Demeria.

Susana Mulcahey works with elementary school students at Heartwood Grove. Photos by Katie Demeria.

With a move eastward, a budding local private school has doubled the size of its home base.

Heartwood Grove School, a foreign language immersion K-8 school, has settled into about 3,000 square feet at the Patterson Avenue Baptist Church.

The relocation to 4301 Patterson Ave. took place in August, after structural damage in the school’s former location at the Westhampton Baptist Church on Three Chopt Road caused the building’s owners to sell the property.

Heartwood Grove was founded in 2011 by Laura Bice with help from her husband, local real estate developer Charles Bice. It allows students to study French or Spanish for the first part of the day before tackling other more traditional academics in the afternoon, such as math and science.

It launched with three students and has grown to 25.

Weekday programs immerse students in Spanish or French.

Weekday programs immerse students in Spanish or French.

“It’s growing slowly,” Laura Bice said. “Immersion is kind of new for Richmond.”

Even with the extra space, Bice said she expects to continue to grow the school slowly and in a way that allows it to retain some of its current virtues, such as small class size.

“I think we’ve done so well in the National French Exam because our classes are so small,” she Bice said. “With five or seven people in a class, you have to talk all the time. You develop not just understanding and comprehension and reading, but you also get a lot of speaking time.”

Tuition is around $11,000 a year for students, who can start as early as 5 years old. The school, for now, only goes up to eighth grade, but Bice said Heartwood is flexible and can work with older students, as well. The school also offers a Russian program on weekends.

Before considering major growth plans, Bice said she wants to grow a solid base of elementary and middle school academics, when students can most benefit from learning a new language.

“At the elementary age, they’re like sponges,” Charles Bice said. “Once you’ve gotten to high school and you’ve done an elementary immersion program, you’re immersed.”

Susana Mulcahey works with elementary school students at Heartwood Grove. Photos by Katie Demeria.

Susana Mulcahey works with elementary school students at Heartwood Grove. Photos by Katie Demeria.

With a move eastward, a budding local private school has doubled the size of its home base.

Heartwood Grove School, a foreign language immersion K-8 school, has settled into about 3,000 square feet at the Patterson Avenue Baptist Church.

The relocation to 4301 Patterson Ave. took place in August, after structural damage in the school’s former location at the Westhampton Baptist Church on Three Chopt Road caused the building’s owners to sell the property.

Heartwood Grove was founded in 2011 by Laura Bice with help from her husband, local real estate developer Charles Bice. It allows students to study French or Spanish for the first part of the day before tackling other more traditional academics in the afternoon, such as math and science.

It launched with three students and has grown to 25.

Weekday programs immerse students in Spanish or French.

Weekday programs immerse students in Spanish or French.

“It’s growing slowly,” Laura Bice said. “Immersion is kind of new for Richmond.”

Even with the extra space, Bice said she expects to continue to grow the school slowly and in a way that allows it to retain some of its current virtues, such as small class size.

“I think we’ve done so well in the National French Exam because our classes are so small,” she Bice said. “With five or seven people in a class, you have to talk all the time. You develop not just understanding and comprehension and reading, but you also get a lot of speaking time.”

Tuition is around $11,000 a year for students, who can start as early as 5 years old. The school, for now, only goes up to eighth grade, but Bice said Heartwood is flexible and can work with older students, as well. The school also offers a Russian program on weekends.

Before considering major growth plans, Bice said she wants to grow a solid base of elementary and middle school academics, when students can most benefit from learning a new language.

“At the elementary age, they’re like sponges,” Charles Bice said. “Once you’ve gotten to high school and you’ve done an elementary immersion program, you’re immersed.”

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