Douglas Anderson breaks ground on $13 million expansion

Douglas Anderson breaks ground on $13 million expansion

Glitter, streamers and excitement filled the air at the groundbreaking ceremony for Douglas Anderson School of the Arts’ new 60,000-square-foot building, expected to be complete by the spring of 2015.

In inspiring DA style, many students performed during the ceremony, including the band, a show choir, a small symphony, and a solo interpretive dance. The entire ceremony was also filmed and photographed by students attending DA.

“I’m super excited,” DA junior Sarah Byers said after her performance in the symphony. “The new art labs will be put to good use.”

The $13 million overhaul will add 20 classrooms and four cutting-edge science labs, taking up 40,000 square feet. Specialized classrooms for the musical theater program, a lighting classroom and shop, a welding and casting sculpture studio will also be added. New construction will also include a covered pick-up and drop-off area, along with an extension of the Haskell Sculpture Garden.

The construction will be the first major improvement to the school since 2001, when a black box theater, vocal building and recital hall were added. Those improvements still failed to address the problem of the cafeteria.

The remaining 20,000 square feet will be a new cafeteria. The cafeteria will also benefit the community as a hurricane shelter. The cafeteria currently only seats 280 students at a time. This means that lunch must be split into four periods. On a regular schedule, the first lunch starts at 11:35 a.m. and students fill the cafeteria until 1:30 p.m.

Having a more efficient and higher capacity cafeteria could give the opportunity for the school to offer a one-period lunch. Studies show that a one-period lunch may be beneficial to students, teachers, and administration.

Not only students are showing excitement about the expansion, but administration and even alumni are too.

Douglas Anderson alumni Sam Davis started attending in the first grade just over 60 years ago and joined the broadcast club in the seventh grade. Davis retired from his job as a broadcaster after more than 30 years in the industry and gives credit to DA for his success.

“The school not only teaches you to be successful in what you do, but sets a great foundation for life,” Davis said. “It’s so exciting to see what this expansion will do for the students and our community.”

Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Nikolai Vitti is also optimistic about the expansion’s impact on the community.

“The beauty that this school has been displaying hasn’t necessarily been physical,” Vitti said. “I think the impact will be great when the infrastructure matches the outstanding work of the students that attend DA.”

The groundbreaking for the new construction was Sept. 4, but renovations to the old campus along with work on the foundation and retention pond began in June, according to Ajax Building Corp. project superintendent Steve Beyer.

“Everything has gone smoothly,” Beyer said. “It has gone better than expected.”

By Garrett Frye
Resident Community News

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