Looking nothing like
a septuagenarian, the renovated Harlan Intermediate School
welcomed some 550 fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders and about 50
faculty members and staff back to their old stand.
Principal Anita Thorpe said
she was surprised when she arrived on the first day after
summer recess to see children and parents lined up for an
entire city block waiting to be admitted to the building.
"Never on a first day have I
seen that many kids and, especially, that many parents
waiting to go in. It was wonderful," she said.
Since it opened in 1933,
Harlan has held a special place in the north Wilmington
community it serves. It now has both city and suburban
attendance areas, but she said the same kind of enthusiasm
prevails. It was especially evident, she said, at a
pre-opening open house where many attenders had their
first opportunity to see what had been done to the
Harlan was the first building
to be completely renovated in the second round of the
Brandywine School District's modernization program. The
work was budgeted at $7.8 million.
Unlike the other buildings in
the program, this renovation was somewhat equivalent to a
Students file back to
class after an opening-day fire drill. No changes were
made to the exterior of the building.
applying a delicate touch with a
piece of heavy equipment. The assignment was to bring the
facilities up to snuff with modern education standards while
preserving historic accouterments familiar to four generations.
That shows up in
such touches as hardwood floors and tall windows in classrooms
which flank corridors now paved with brightly colored tiles.
Nowhere are the contrasting adaptations more graphic than in the
octagonal wing that once was a 'mud room' where youngsters could
transition from a soggy playground to scholarly demeanor. The
room's architectural appearance hasn't changed, but it is now a
'media center' with an adjacent computer laboratory, directly
accessible after removal of some walls.
Thorpe said she is thankful that the contractors "were able to
keep so much of what was already here" while providing for
features that had been missing.
Whiting-Turner Constructing Co., was the general contractor.
The sense of anticipation that accompanies the first day of the
academy year was accented for the two-thirds of the students in
the upper two grades. They spent the past academic year in
temporary residence in the high-rise Burnett building a few
"There's a world of difference," Thorpe said. "There, with
things on different floors, we were isolated from each other.
We're glad to be back here where it's more intimate."
If the children were awed by their looking-like-new surroundings
in an old, and for the sixth grade, familiar setting, they
didn't succumb to that emotion.
"They've already begun to settle in," said one teacher at
mid-morning as she moved a quiet file of dress code-compliant
students outside in response to the inevitable opening-day fire