Work begins on last stage of GCIT expansion


Saturday, March 21, 2009

By Pete McCarthy

DEPTFORD TWP. It seemed almost like a repeat on Friday at the Gloucester County Institute of Technology.

County officials and others were holding a ceremony at the high school campus for the second time in a month. This time, they were breaking ground on another major expansion the final piece in the puzzle.

"I know we just got done with a ribbon-cutting for one, but this is going to complete our campus," said Freeholder Joseph Brigandi Jr. "The main focus is to create more career technical space."

A 46,817-square-foot addition to the campus is under way and should be completed by the time school starts in September 2010, officials announced Friday. Both expansions are designed by Garrison Architects of Mt. Laurel.

"This expansion ... will provide the space necessary to add seats to the traditional trades program," said Freeholder Director Stephen Sweeney, "and it will provide a partnership with Gloucester County College so students in the academies, who are ready, can work toward their Associate's degrees while at GCIT."

This year, the high school received 730 freshmen applications, but only about 280 acceptance letters were mailed.

"We turn away too many kids," said Sweeney.

The expansion will add 450 seats to the school and address the need for additional health-care education programs. It will include 24 new classrooms, a new gymnasium, an expanded guidance area and renovations to some existing rooms.

Senior Ashley Taylor said these expansion efforts offer more opportunities to teenagers in the area.

"I love coming here," said Taylor. "It's nice to have teachers who appreciate what you do and help you grow."

Taylor is enrolled in the Academy of Performing Arts and plans to attend Rider University in the fall.

"They really work with you here," she said. "This expansion is going to make you want to work harder for your education."

The latest project was originally announced last year as a plan to construct a new school on the campus in Deptford. It would be an "Academy School" that would give some high school students a chance to get an Associate's degree while still in high school, officials said.

When a committee was formed last year to finalize the proposal, some changes were made.

Other than the decision to downsize the construction effort, the plan is fairly similar. These gifted students will now be on track to get those Associate's degrees within a year of graduating from high school, if they attend GCC.

Bids for the latest expansion effort came in at $13 million. The county will look to recoup nearly half of the cost associated with this project through state aid.

County Director of Education and Disability Services Fred Keating called this a plan with "vision and courage."

"This has been a long journey," said Keating, referring to the decision to make GCIT a full-time high school and the initial expansion. "This piece is going to be the last leg of the Triple Crown."

Keating said that, although this marks the end of current expansion at GCIT, it still will only scratch the surface.

 

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