In the early 1970s the city of Richmond had a successful program for dyslexic children at Grace Arents Elementary School. At that time, elementary schools were K-6. Four families that had 6th grade sons in that program were concerned about what would happen when they went to middle school. The city told them that it was not possible to continue this very successful program in middle school. It was “too late” to work on skills.
Unwilling to take “no” for an answer, they decided to start their own school. They hired Alice Ansara, a pioneer in Dyslexia education and remediation to help design the school.They persuaded two of the teachers who had worked with their children at Grace Arents, to join them. The New Community School opened with 24 students at St. Stephen’s Church in 1974. The school included grades 7-10. All students took English, Math, Social Studies, Studies, and “Special English” (now known as Language Fundamentals). Classes were 50 minutes long except on Thursdays, when classes were shortened (30 minutes) so that students could go to the University of Richmond for enrichment activities.
In year two the enrollment doubled to 51 with the addition of an 11th grade, and the school moved to Ginter Park Presbyterian Church on the north side of Richmond.. The faculty consisted of 9 teachers and 2 LF interns (graduate students at the University of Richmond). Course offerings in the academic areas were expanded and an Independent Study was offered as well. A Physical Education program was begun and the school fielded two soccer teams.
At the close of year three we graduated our first two students. Despite this success, the school had a significant budget shortfall. The school came near to closing and the Headmaster resigned.
Julia Ann Greenwood, chair of the LF Department and newly appointed Director of Instruction, was asked to step in as Acting Head to begin the 1977-78 school year. After a national search the trustees concluded that the best leader for the school was right here and in the spring of 1978 Julia Ann became Head of the School.
By 1980 it was clear that the TNCS experiment was a success, but that we needed our own space. The Trustees began to look for a permanent home for TNCS and committed to a Capital Campaign to pay for it. Since our population came from such a wide area, a central location, close to major highways, was a top priority. At the end of the school year, in June of 1981 we began the move to “Willowbrook”, renamed Massey Hall in thanks for the ongoing support of the Massey family. Classes opened on our new campus in September 1981, with 54 students. At that time the campus consisted of Massey Hall, the Science Labs, the Cottage, and the Barn.
In the mid-1980s TNCS approached VAIS about accreditation. At that time VAIS did not have a special school as a member. We would be the first. In 1986-87 we conducted our first Self-Study. In March 1987 we welcomed the VAIS Accreditation Team to our campus and later that year were officially welcomed into membership.
In early 1993 we began to study the possibility of adding a 6th grade to our middle school and in September 1994 the first 6th graders arrived on campus. In 1993-94 our middle school had 12 students, all 8th graders; in 1994-95 we opened with 19 middle school students. As the middle school grew in size it began to assume its own identity, instead of being just an adjunct to the high school.
In 2012, Julia Ann Greenwood retired as Head of School, having held the position for 34 years. After a national search, Nancy Foy become the School’s next Head of School in July of 2012.
In 2013, the school again studied the feasibility of adding a grade, this time 5th. The first TNCS 5th graders arrived on campus in the Fall of 2014, and the school year began with 135 students, the largest in the school’s history.
Over the years the school has grown on our northside campus to accommodate our grown in size and program. From our humble beginnings in a church basement, TNCS now consists of 10 academic and administrative buildings, as well as full athletic facilities and an athletic field.
For over 40 years, The New Community School has been transforming lives by creating an educational environment that celebrates the gifts of dyslexia and related learning differences. If you have any questions about our past, present, or future, we invite you to contact us, or stop by campus.