building more functional to suit current teaching methodology
[has] the highest priority." according to the architectural plan
for renovating and modernizing P.S. du Pont Intermediate School
recently submitted to the Brandywine Board of Education.
extensive school renovation ever in Delaware, the two-year
project will start the third and final phase of the Brandywine
district's effort, begun in 1994, to update its schools. When
finished, all will have been and the district will have two new
elementary-school buildings replacing the existing Brandywood
and Lancashire buildings.
The P.S. project
differs from the others in several respects.
Not only is the
structure at 34th and Van Buren Sts. larger than the others --
206,000 square feet of floor area on four levels -- but it is
closely identified with the history of the section of the city
originally designated as its Ninth Ward. Many area residents
still use that name to refer to residential neighborhoods in
north Wilmington. Besides wanting to avoid offending
sensibilities of present and past residents of the area and the
large accumulation of P.S. alumni, the building is protected by
a national historical designation.
specifies that "most of the visible elements will be repaired
[or] restored to retain the historical character of the
As with past
renovations, most of the work not only will be done inside the
building but will deal with its innards -- the mechanical,
electrical, plumbing, heating, cooling and ventilation
infrastructure that most people take for granted and never see.
In P.S.'s case,
however, there necessarily will be a considerable amount of
interior rebuilding that will be visible.
The building was
constructed in the second quarter of the 1930s to be a
junior-senior high school. The city's growth had resulted in
gross overcrowding of its only secondary school, Wilmington
High. Since the merger of Wilmington Public Schools with other
northern New Castle County districts to achieve federal
court-ordered racial desegregation in 1978, P.S.'s enrollment
has been fourth-, fifth- and sixth-graders. A separate
kindergarten and pre-school also has been located in the
enrollment is about 900 students and the district has set that
as the level to be maintained in the future.
More than a
generation of youngsters have since passed through the three
intermediate grades and, while adaptations have been made, to
render the building reasonably suitable for their age and size,
it has never managed to be totally comfortable. The plan now
calls for design changes that will have the effect of "scaling
down the 'feel' of the building for the younger population that
The plan contains
a litany of design changes intended to accomplish that.
The three grades
will be grouped on their own floors -- fourth on the lower,
fifth in the middle and sixth on the upper -- in separate wings
"to create a 'small school feel'," the plan said. Several rooms
will be made smaller to provide classrooms of like
intermediate-level size. Common areas, such as music and art
rooms will be grouped in the center of the building. Science
laboratories will be reconfigured from their original high
While that is
obviously an involved undertaking it is further complicated by a
stated desire to retain what is good from the old while
providing for the new. That is best illustrated by comparing
retention of classic appearance of the library with providing a
new-style cafeteria similar to a 'food court' with which today's
youngsters are familiar.
As would be
expected, security is a primary consideration. Access to the
building will be tightly controlled and the plan calls for
fencing the open area between the building and Franklin Place
which will be made into an age-appropriate play area. The
general public will still be able to use the area north of
the building that originally was the P.S. High sports stadium.
The area on the
building's lower level used for the kindergarten and pre-school
will be made virtually separate. In addition to separate
entranceway and administrative space, it will have its own
The plan calls
for work to begin this summer with renovation of the lower level
and the free-standing swimming pool building. Kindergarten and
pre-school will be housed at Mount Pleasant Elementary near
Bellefonte during the 2006-07 academic year.
2007-08 year, construction will be done in the main area of the
building with the students attending in the high-rise Burnett
building at the northwest section of the combined campus.
Completion of the
entire project is scheduled by August, 2008.
estimates construction costs to be about $39.6 million. Original
construction during the Great Depression era came in at
just under $2 million.