OGDEN — DaVinci Academy of Science and the Arts is renovating and opening a new building to house elementary school students.
In May, DaVinci Academy purchased the vacant Ogden Preparatory Academy Middle School building at 215 22nd St. for $2.7 million.
Deb Neal, the school’s community outreach director, said $500,000 has gone into renovating the building and while they’re a little behind schedule, most of the changes are cosmetic — such as new carpet, repairing windows and adding shelving, sinks and water fountains in classrooms.
“One of the things we pride ourselves in is having a downtown presence,” she said. “Sure, it would have been a lot easier for me to go out and build a brand new building.”
Previously, DaVinci had a “Little DaVinci” building for kindergarten through fourth-grade students. The larger DaVinci Academy building held grades five through 12 and a distance education program for kindergarten through sixth grade.
Neal said the addition of “Middle DaVinci” will house grades one through six.
They’re calling it Middle DaVinci because while middle school-aged students aren’t attending, Little DaVinci will house kindergarten students and the distance education program nearby at at 2221 Grant Ave., and the largest, main building at 2033 Grant Ave. will continue to serve grades seven through 12.
The two-story Middle DaVinci will house about 340 students with lower grades on the first floor and fourth, fifth and sixth grades above. Classrooms will include high-tech interactive white boards.
“We make decisions based on student needs,” Neal said. “There isn't a single decision where it isn’t a student-centered decision.”
Ogden Prep Principal Amie Campbell said they rented the building from Academica West, a charter school management company, until about four years ago when Ogden Prep moved into its own newly-constructed campus at 1415 Lincoln Ave. The old middle school has been vacant since.
Neal said the building has large, external windows throughout and DaVinci high school students might get the chance to design and paint a mural on the concrete floor of the entryway.
“It’s just a nice, natural, organic learning environment,” she said.
School starts Aug. 21 but teachers were still working alongside construction workers Tuesday, Aug. 10.
Erika Kortman, the school’s director, used to be housed in the Little DaVinci building and said she’s excited to be in a building she feels will fit their needs.
“It’s had its bumps, its ups and downs, but you have to smile and say it’s going to happen,” she said. “That’s been my philosophy.”
The school will open without a finished playground, but Neal said they’re turning it into a learning opportunity and plan on letting the school’s students design it. For now, they’ll use the small concrete space and basketball hoops, or travel back and forth to the Little DaVinci playground nearby.
Neal said the school fosters a culture of getting out into the community and students are used to field trips, whether they’re nearby or not.
“Our kids are all over town,” she said. “We’re down by the river. We walk to the Egyptian Theater.”
Once Middle DaVinci opens, the school will begin renovating two science classrooms in the secondary school building with more STEM-focused technology, Executive Administrator Fred Donaldson said.
DaVinci offers half-day kindergarten and the academy will offer supplemental learning activities for those children to attend for the other half of the day.