This story was originally published at SouthCoastToday.com
NEW BEDFORD — Alma del Mar starts the new year with bright news, as the design for the new Frederick Douglass Campus has been announced.
A new, two-level, 52,000-square-foot building is currently under construction on a four-acre lot in the North End off Church Street. With the steel framework arriving over winter break, director of development Becca Kurie is beaming with excitement.
“With the mild winter, the team has been able to push forward,” she said. “We’re full steam ahead.”
According to volunteer facilities adviser Ed Haddad, most of the foundation has been poured and steel framework will be complete within the next six to eight weeks. Then the steel siding will be installed, with a mixture of steel and wooden skin as the façade. Haddad said the stained cedar will soften the look in comparison to an all-steel exterior.
The new building will welcome 50 scholars per grade in K to 5 and 98 scholars per grades 6 to 8 for a total of 594. It will be able to accommodate more students than its current location on Davis Street. Planned as a U-shaped structure, it will feature a multipurpose library, 4,500-square-foot gymnasium, informal Scholar Community room, outdoor playground area and energy efficient HVAC and lighting systems. Haddad said that the cafeteria and the gymnasium will be located on the left side of the building while classrooms occupy the majority of the building.
“The inside is pretty simple,” he said. “We wanted to spend the money on education, not the building. The primary focus is the kids.”
Since the building is adjacent to wetlands, the space will be used as an interactive outdoor classroom. The site also shares land with houses and the issue of traffic in the community from buses and drop-offs was addressed at committee meetings, according to City Councilor Brad Markey. He said the committee spoke with the Department of Public Infrastructure to work with everyone’s needs and concerns. Many neighbors were concerned about the landscape design, but Markey said the team was accommodating neighbors, asking what they would like to see for the landscape.
“It’s another opportunity for the youth of New Bedford to be educated,” Markey said. “Not every size fits all, so it’s another option.”
According to a press release, the new campus is part of Alma’s $6.2 million Impact Campaign, of which $4 million has already been raised, and a component for financing for the overall $24 million project. The building is expected to be completed by January 2022. Compass Project Management is leading the project with Arrowstreet as the designer. Alma will be leasing Fisher College on Church Street as a temporary space to serve grades 6 to 8 in the fall while construction continues. Alma currently follows a complete remote learning model for all scholars.
Taylor DeLoach, principal of the Frederick Douglass Campus, emphasized the importance on a new building amid the pandemic.
“Our school is an incredibly tight knit community,” DeLoach said in the press release. “One of the challenges of this pandemic has been the physical distance between us all … our new building has more significance now than ever — though we are all experiencing the struggle of the pandemic, our community continues to progress.”
With the expansion of this building, Alma is currently accepting applications for enrollment for the 2021-2022 school year.