Exclamations of excitement were in the air at the new Colonial Middle School, which opened for the first time to students on Monday, March 7.
As students, faculty, and staff walked from the old middle school to the new building, their smiles were hard to contain and even one student declared the new building “dazzling” as he entered the lobby. Their arms loaded with boxes, books, trash cans – as well as at least one goldfish in a bowl – students entered the facility and were greeted by the CMS jazz band and the CMS Patriot. Students followed their teachers to their new classrooms and settled in for the day.
While regular classroom lessons were a part of the day, students were also given time to try out their new lockers, tour the building, and learn about new arrival and dismissal procedures for those who walk, take the bus, or travel to and from school with a parent/guardian.
Seventh-graders Molly Cooper, Santina Cervon, Jayden Santiago, and Francis Davis were busy in the hall figuring out the combinations to their new lockers.
“This school’s amazing,” said Jayden.
“I love it so much,” said Molly. “It’s definitely different.”
Chorus teacher Amy Venkus said students’ reactions on their first day were priceless.
“I would say (they expressed) awe and wonder, because they’ve seen pictures, but it doesn’t translate until you see it in person,” she said.
As for herself, she said she was feeling “nothing but absolute joy and excitement” upon spending her first day in her new classroom, which has more light, better acoustics, and more room for students. She is also looking forward to musical productions in the new auditorium, which offers many state-of-the-art features that she is hoping to use.
The Colonial Middle School building project has been nearly three years in the making. Ground was broken in October of 2019, and work has continued steadily since that time. The construction timeline did experience some setbacks due to the pandemic and supply chain issues, but this school year’s target of opening in the spring of 2022 has finally been met.
The new school is about 42,000 square feet larger than the existing building. At 232,000 square feet, the facility will accommodate 1,500 students. The building features a cafeteria that seats 500, a new gym that can hold 1,400, a two-story media center, a common courtyard area with turf that can be used for outdoor classroom activities, and a 750-seat auditorium.
With a new access road for buses, and a new flow for parent/guardian drop-off and pick-up, it is anticipated that traffic will be improved along Belvoir Road during student arrival and dismissal.
Throughout the spring, work will continue to finish punch list items in the new school, and to empty out the old building so that demolition can begin in April. Demolition is anticipated to take about three months, and then construction of new athletic fields and paving of new parking lots and driveways will begin and take place over the summer and into the fall. Open houses and a ribbon-cutting ceremony are being planned for later in the year.