New York High School Hastens Construction

NEW YORK — High graduation and college acceptance rates, along with a progressive curriculum infused with science and the arts, have made New York City’s Beacon High School quite popular. Less than two decades after opening on the city’s Upper West Side, the school maintained a population of 1,200 students, though it was designed for just 827. To continue offering the same high level of education, it was clear Beacon needed more space and upgraded amenities.

In August 2012, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other school officials participated in a groundbreaking ceremony for the new and improved Beacon High School. The project will convert an existing 200,000-square-foot former public library building in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood into a modern, 232,000-square-foot facility for nearly 1,500 students. The New York City School Construction Authority purchased the library building, which then was used as storage, for $40 million in August 2011. When construction is complete, the current Beacon High School building will become the new West End Secondary School, serving grades 6-12.

Improving on the original school’s three-story design, which lacked a full size gym and sufficient classroom space, the new seven-story Beacon High School will include 50 classrooms, a spacious auditorium, a 7,500-square-foot gymnasium and a number of science and technology labs. It will also add specialized spaces such as an exercise/dance/weight training area, recording rooms, a black box theater, and choral and instrumental music spaces.

John Ciardullo & Associates of New York designed the new facility, which is being built by Skanska USA, headquartered in New York, for an estimated construction cost of $88 million. The design enlarged the building’s square footage and includes a two-story addition to accommodate the new gym and auditorium.

Designers also worked with AKRF of New York to develop ideal acoustics throughout the new school. Consultants from AKRF performed a detailed noise survey to determine acoustical performance requirements for the building’s façade and provided acoustical design recommendations for a number of the school’s recreational and performing arts spaces.

Beacon High School was originally slated for a September 2015 completion, and re-siting of West End Secondary School can only commence once Beacon has vacated its soon-to-be-former home. This construction schedule allowed just one week between completion and the beginning of classes. Concerned the tight turnaround would delay the start of classes Community Education Council 3 members issued a letter to Deputy Chancellor of the New York Department of Education Kathleen Grimm and President of the New York City School Construction Authority Lorraine Grillo last month urging them to speed up construction.

“This scheduling would adversely affect the 1,300-plus families of Beacon High School students and likely the 100-plus families at the new West End Secondary School, as well as the entire District 3 community,” Second Vice President of the District 3 Community Education Council Noah E. Gotbaum wrote to Grimm and Grillo on Dec. 9.

The project has since been fast-tracked with a new anticipated completion date sometime in August 2015. Though hastening construction of the college preparatory school will result in added costs, the School Construction Authority has declined to disclose a specific price tag.