GCA breaks ground on new Soundview school building

Benny Catala; Lea Ciavarra, Lubrano Ciavarra Architects; Anne Marie Lubrano, Lubrano Ciavarra Architects; Pat McGowan; Arlene Hall Waistburd, Board of Trustees and principal Ira Victor with students and parents.
Photo by Aracelis Batista

A charter school is finally getting ‘a home of its own.’

Grand Concourse Academy Charter School, an elementary and middle school that first opened its doors in 2004, held a groundbreaking on Wednesday, January 31 for a facility in Soundview.

GCA has leased space, first at East 169th Street and Walton Avenue near the Grand Concourse, and now at Monsignor Scanlan High School, said Arlene Hall, GCA board of trustees chairwoman.

The school has continued to grow, starting as an elementary school and expanding with a middle school up the eighth grade, necessitating development of its own three-story, 50,000 square foot building at 625 Bolton Avenue in Soundview, school officials said.

The building, scheduled for completion by June 2019, would allow the extension of programming that could include after-school learning that would be helpful for working parents and students alike and Saturday recreational/educational opportunities, said Hall.

“I just cannot contain my excitement because we finally have a whole list of things that we want to do for this community in that school,” said Hall.

In contrast to any landlord/leasing situation, GCA would have full management control and there wouldn’t be any restrictions placed on operations.

Hall said Ira Victor, the school’s founding principal and current executive director and his team make sure that everyone at GCA is on top of the newest technology, assessments and tests.

The school’s new building and facilities will feature an outdoor running track, science labs, technology room, playground spaces for both younger and older children, amphitheater and gardening area.

The building will feature rooftop solar panels that should prove cost-effective long term, said Hall.

According to Victor, moving from leased space to GCA’s own facility would have advantages in a variety of ways, especially for middle school students.

“It would give us the option of giving the students in the middle school a real middle school experience,” said Victor, explaining the variety of facilities feature would enhance their experiences.

Victor, who is in charge of operations and finance, said that GCA had budgeted its money well enough over 14 years so that they could consider their own home and is now in a position to realize its dream.

“I think it was always our dream to have a facility that we could call our own – that we could offer the children in the Bronx community (a place) where they would have every avenue of opportunity,” he said.

Victor said he believes the community is excited, explaining there is not a charter middle school nearby in the district, while there are two charter elementary schools and high schools.

Turner-Agassi Charter School Facilities Fund, a group that helps charters secure high quality and long-term facilities, assisted GCA with logistics in developing the new building and enabled GCA to have certainty about its future, said Hall.

Lea Ciavarra, of Lubrano Ciavarra Architects, stated the priority was to create a warm, welcoming environment for the students. The design will include bands of color on the building’s exterior.

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.
Pictured here is an artist’s rendering of the future front entrance of the Grand Concourse Academy.
Photo courtesy of GCA

More from Around NYC