Photo Album

At Harlan, everything old is new again

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 landmark building.

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 master mechanic

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 blocks away..

"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 drill.

TURN THE PAGE for a tour of the renovated Harlan >