Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

School of the Arts in Midst of $13M Expansion Project

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

School of the Arts in Midst of $13M Expansion Project

Article excerpt

Byline: Charlie Patton

When Douglas Anderson School of the Arts opened in the fall of 1985, it took over a campus that had opened in 1922 as a segregated school for African-Americans living south or east of the St. Johns River and was far from state-of-the-art.

Over the years, there has been a fair amount of renovation and new construction at the school including a $6 million overhaul in 1989 that saw the addition of a theater, a dance wing and an instrumental room. More work in 2001 added a black box theater, a recital hall and a vocal building.

Despite those improvements, the school still used 13 portable classrooms during the past school year. The school's 1,200-plus students ate in what one School Board member called "the worst cafeteria in the county," a cafeteria that provided seats for only 280 students at a time.

That's why Jackie Cornelius, principal since 1996, is looking forward to the spring of 2015. That's when work is schedule to be completed on a $13 million overhaul and expansion of the campus.

That overhaul will provide about 40,000 square feet for 20 classrooms and four state-of-the art science labs in a 60,000-square-foot building built to the east of the existing campus. The other 20,000 square feet of the new building will be a new cafeteria that will double as a community hurricane shelter.

The project also includes construction of a 500-seat amphitheater, specialized classrooms for the musical theater program; a lighting and costume classroom and shop; a visual arts metals studio for welding and casting sculpture; a covered pickup and dropoff area; and expansion of the school's Haskell Sculpture Garden.

Although an official groundbreaking ceremony won't be held until Sept. 4, work on the project actually began last spring, said Steve Beyer, the superintendent of the project for Ajax Building Corp. …

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