School started last week for the nearly 500 students attending the newly constructed K-8 Pennsylvania Avenue School building, but Wednesday was the first time parents, city dignitaries and others in the community toured the $25 million school.
The informal open house was part of the formal dedication ceremony that marked the school's renewal. The building was part of a 2009 $80 million referendum that included building two schools - Pennsylvania Avenue in the uptown section and the soon-to-open Richmond Avenue School in the Lower Chelsea neighborhood of the city.
Mayor Lorenzo Langford said the new school, which is among the most technologically advanced in the state and includes eight computers, interactive white boards and digital displays in every classroom, will serve as an anchor in the neighborhood and provide stability for students and families living nearby.
The New Jersey Avenue School, which was in , closed at the end of the last school year and its students now attend Pennsylvania Avenue School. Langford, in his remarks, said he wanted to make sure the legacy of the New Jersey Avenue School lived on through the new building.
"The New Jersey avenue school has equipped and nurtured some of the brightest minds in the city" he said. "The challenge before the Pennsylvania Avenue School is to continue that tradition. I have no doubt that given the staff, we are positioned to do just that."
Atlantic City Board of Education president Patricia Bailey told the more than 100 people gathered in front of the school that she was in awe of the tools students now had.
"On behalf of the Board of Education, we want to say thank you to a community ... because without the community this could never have happened. They voted for this," Bailey said.
Atlantic City Schools superintendent Donna Haye said in her remarks that she hopes the library would become the heart of the school. "we want these children to leave being readers, writers and thinkers."
Principal Sylvia Stewart grew up just blocks from the new building and first attended classes at the old Pennsylvania Avenue School. She described her appointment as principal of the new school as "coming full circle."
"I am just thrilled to be here today and I am just elated that the Board of Education and the taxpayers of Atlantic City thought it proper to build this magnificent facility for our children," she said.
"Believe it or not the citizenship and achievement already has started," Stewart said as she introduced a student, Gibelisse Cartagena, who recently won a county-wide poster contest.
About 20 students performed a song about the school, singing, dancing and clapping to lyrics that talked of respect, perseverance and hard work.
At the end of the remarks, Stewart, Haye, and two seventh grade students, Paularis Gomez and John Garrett, walked up to yellow and blue ribbon that had been strung across one of the stairways to the front entrance and ceremonially cut the ribbons, marking the school officially open.