Ocean City High School Taking Shape


September 23, 2003
By MICHAEL MILLER Staff Writer, (609) 463-6712, E-Mail

OCEAN CITY - Most classrooms are skeletons. The auditorium is waiting for a roof. Both gymnasiums are still imaginary at this point.But where some people might see bare cinderblock and empty wall sockets at the new Ocean City High School, Superintendent Donald Dearborn sees a bustling science lab. From atop a concrete platform in a mammoth room, Dearborn sees a rousing student performance of "The Wizard of Oz."

And as he steps carefully over rebar and skids of red brick, he welcomes visitors through the non-existent front door into what will soon be a bright, two-story foyer.

The new $40 million school, designed by Garrison Architects of Mt. Laurel, NJ,is just one year from opening. If this were "Monster School," a version of Discovery Channel's hit home-improvement show, the red countdown clock would read 11 months, 16 days and a few hours until the first class bell rings. But Dearborn said he was confident that students would file down its hallways on Sept. 8."I'm pleased with the progress we've made," he said. "The worst-case situation is we stay where we are. But my goal is to open on time."

The school district broke ground on the project in June 2002. A court battle over one of the contracts last year prevented any electrical work from being done at the school for more than a month.

But by far the biggest obstacle for contractors has been the wet weather. The project is about 15 days behind schedule, Dearborn said. But most of the building is enclosed, which means winter weather is a less menacing threat.

And from the outside, the school is taking shape. Contractors are finishing the brickwork façade. Concrete molds of books and feather quills add decorative touches that borrow from the old high school.

"I'm getting a lot of compliments on the architectural style," Dearborn said. "People say it really looks like a school."

The interior seems cavernous without the drop ceiling and furniture. Separate crews work on plumbing while others complete the massive system of ductwork that will make the building climate controlled.

Each classroom will be wired for high-speed Internet and cable television. The school was designed to keep athletics separated from the classrooms. The locker rooms, weight room, 1,000-seat gymnasium and secondary gym are on the far east side of the school overlooking the football field and the north end of the city's Boardwalk.

"Can you imagine eating lunch with a view of the ocean?" Dearborn asked as he stopped in the cafeteria, lighted in part by sunlight from picture windows.Once the school is finished, the old building will be demolished to make room for parking lots and tennis courts as part of the Green Acres land swap.

Three high school classroom trailers will be returned. The district staff will move into the high school, too, vacating offices in the Crown Bank Building downtown. Eliminating those offices and the trailers will save the district $40,000 in annual rent.Students will have more elective choices once the school opens. Besides the new TV studio, the school has its own student store for the business program. The board also is considering offering more classes, including American Sign Language as a foreign language and Advanced Placement studio art.

"Every report we get is really good," Board of Education President Barbara Kichline said. "It's very, very exciting. There is a lot of interest."

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