Bright red and yellow chairs await new kindergartners, matching the bright yellow trim on the walls of their classrooms at the new Pennsylvania Avenue School.
Boxes sit stacked in the cafetorium (a combined cafeteria and auditorium) as workers uncrate and assemble about 500 desks before school starts in September.
“Isn’t this great?” asked superintendent Donna Haye as she led a tour of the second-floor library with its row of windows overlooking the city. “And there’s no exposed wiring anywhere.”
The K-8 school will open in September, welcoming students from the almost century-old New Jersey Avenue School, which will close. New students who live on South Carolina and Pennsylvania avenues, who would have attended New York Avenue School, will also attend the new school unless their parents ask to have them attend New York Avenue.
“It is closer now for them to come here,” Assistant Superintendent, General Operations Barry Caldwell said. A new redistricting plan assures that no students will have to cross Route 30 to get to school.
The district is also completing a second new school on Richmond Avenue, which is expected to be completed in October, but will likely not open until January, to give staff time to move in over the winter break. Students will continue to attend the old Brighton Avenue School until the new school opens.
Both new schools, each designed to hold about 500 students, are part of an $80 million bond referendum approved by voters in April 2009. The old Richmond Avenue school was demolished in November 2009, and construction on the new school began in March 2010. Additional properties were acquired at the Pennsylvania Avenue School site between Baltic and Mediterranean avenues, and groundbreaking there was held in May 2011.
Richmond Avenue was to be completed last year, but there were numerous delays and change orders, Caldwell said.
In April of this year the district Board of Education, dissatisfied with the school’s progress, terminated the services of Hill International and Cobra Construction at the Richmond Avenue School and replaced them with The T.N. Ward Company, which is managing the Pennsylvania Avenue School project.
“Richmond Avenue is back on track,” Caldwell said.
Max Adkins of T.N. Ward, superintendent on the Pennsylvania Avenue School project, said the only challenge was some snowy weather early in the project. He said the school has a temporary certificate of occupancy now and he expects to have the permanent CO next week.
Construction on the two schools is costing about $25 million each. The district saved money by modeling both schools after Sovereign Avenue School, designed by SOSH Architects in Atlantic City, which opened in 2004. Haye said there are some adjustments to accommodate the space and new programs at the schools, and staff and the community had input on the proposals.
“People liked the design and the use of space,” principal Sylvia Stewart said. “The halls are wide, it’s just inviting.”
Each school has about 100,000 square feet of space. Richmond Avenue has an additional 20,000 square feet that will house a branch of the Atlantic City Public Library, just as the old school did. Both schools have extensive interior and exterior security, including cameras, and visitors will enter into a vestibule and be cleared by a receptionist before entering the main building.
The schools are three stories, with grades K-2 on the first floor, grades 3-5 on the second floor and 6-8 on the third floor, which has three state-of-the-art science labs. Each school will also have a parent center.
Pennsylvania Avenue School will house the district’s new Choral Academy for seventh and eighth graders. Richmond Avenue will have an Instrumental Academy, which will begin at Sovereign Avenue this year.
Stewart and assistant principal Tracey Allen will move from New Jersey Avenue School to Pennsylvania Avenue. Teachers will begin coming in this week to unpack books and supplies. Students start school Sept. 7.
Caldwell said district officials are still discussing the future of the New Jersey Avenue and Brighton Avenue schools. The district spent about $1.5 million upgrading Brighton Avenue so it could be used during construction and it could still be used as a school, possibly to house some students from Sovereign Avenue School to lower class sizes there.
Contact Diane D'Amico: