With Focus On Learning Disabilities, Marburn Academy Opens New $14 Million Campus

Feb 14, 2017

Now is an exciting time for students at Marburn Academy, and not just because of the paper airplane contest in the gymnasium. Rather, it's the gymnasium - and the rest of the brand new school building - that has kids and administrators alike brimming with energy.

Marburn students compete in a paper airplane contest in their new gymnasium.
Credit Steve Brown

The new gym sits next to the school's drama program, and just behind the engineering program where students learn about and build robots. All of this, says Head of School Jamie Williamson, is a far cry from Marburn Academy's old location.

“Our high school kids had to go to the bathroom with second graders,” Williamson says. “We had no real science room. We had no real art room. We had no real music room.”

Now, the school occupies a 64,000-square-foot, Georgian-style building on Johnstown Road in New Albany, which opened last month at a final cost of $14 million. It takes up about a third of a 17-acre campus just off State Route 161.

The school's hallways and stairwells are decorated with uplifting messages.
Credit Steve Brown

A private day school for grades 2-12, Marburn caters to students with learning disabilities - or differences, as the Academy calls them.  

"Learning differences are dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, ADHD, executive function," Williamson says. "Our kids look and feel just like any other kids in any other building in Central Ohio."

Students in the engineering program design and build robots.
Credit Steve Brown

The school has seen exponential growth since opening in 1981. Though Williamson says he's a "big believer" in public education, he credits Marburn’s popularity in part to parents frustrated with public school barriers for kids with disabilities.

"We get to focus really exclusively on what kids' needs are and really kind of meet kids where they are," he says. "I think the empowering part of our work here is that our kids get to feel like they're not the only kid in the classroom who has a struggle."

Head of School Jamie Williamson says this fish tank in a school hallway helps relax kids who might be "having a tough day."
Credit Steve Brown

Williamson say that Marburn works to provide a supportive place for kids with learning challenges to take risks:

"So the confidence that it takes to raise your hand in the middle of a classroom and say, 'I don't know' or 'I'm not sure I understand this word' or 'Can you help me pronounce this?' or 'What does this mean?' takes an incredible amount of courage."

That feeling comes at a steep price: Tuition at Marburn starts at $25,960 a year, although Williamson says scholarships and financial aid drive the average family’s out-of-pocket cost to less than $12,000 a year.

Marburn currently has just 239 students enrolled, but over the next five years, the school aims to increase its student body to 330. And if it does, Marburn's new building is fit to expand, too.

Drama teacher Kevin Fish poses on the set he helped design.
Credit Steve Brown