PALMETTO — Sporting a rad Mohawk and clutching a cello between his legs, 13-year-old Jake Beasley tuned the instrument during his orchestra class Wednesday.
Next door to Jake in keyboard class, Maranda Knoblock, 14, sat at a synthesizer with headphones on, practicing “Amazing Grace.”
After a year of construction, students at Manatee School for the Arts are finally practicing in their new state-of-the art music building. The 11,000-square-foot facility is part of $3 million in completed renovations at the charter school at 600 Haben Blvd., Palmetto.
The school, which serves students in sixth through 12th grades, also got a 10,000-square-foot addition to its office and administration areas.
The walls inside the school’s front entrance are now lined with Chinese porcelain. At its center is a front desk, surrounded on all four sides by hurricane glass.
Previously, students were crammed into a three-story, 109,000-square-foot building. Now they’re learning in 130,000 square feet of space.
The expansion was needed because of the school’s growth, said Principal Bill Jones.
When it opened in 1998, it served 250 students.
This year, the student body totals 1,350 — up 100 from last year’s 1,250 children.
By moving music classes to one building, space was created for teachers who were previously sharing rooms. Debra Helman, one of five music teachers, is one staffer benefitting from the new building. During the past two school years, the chorus teacher pushed her music cart from room to room inside the school.
Terry Devine, the school’s assistant principal, bought Helman rollarblades last year for that reason.
The new eight-classroom music building is not just for music. It also has a fitness center and a classroom for social studies.
Each room is lined with “Acousta black,”1E2DA570 which absorbs sound.
“It enables students to learn in one room and not hear the band playing next door,” Devine said.
And in some of the classes, including guitar and keyboard, students wear headphones while they play, which only the students and teacher can hear.
Other additions to the campus include an art gallery and 10 acres of land purchased by the school for $800,000. The fenced off area is used for physical education classes and for student parking.
The school’s two theaters, used by five instructors, got a face-lift too.
The school’s main theater, which seats 410 people, has new curtains, air conditioning and lighting. Workers also removed the roof for better acoustics. A room outside the theater doubles as a lobby and a study hall classroom.
The smaller black box theater, which seats 100 people, is used for theater class. It has new lighting, curtains and a polished concrete floor, which translates to no waxing and a savings when it comes to cleaning supplies, Devine said.
Outside the small theater is a new fenced-in courtyard. Adjacent to it, a new cafe set to open next week. “It’s for seniors’ privileges,” Jones said. “They can grab an espresso or a Turner’s doughnut here.”
Although the major renovation is complete, Jones said there’s a few more things left he’d like to see done.
He plans to add some lights to the office administration area and a sign outside the school’s front entrance.