“It’s breathtaking to me. I stand there in awe. It’s something we dreamed about.” rhonda taylor, Central Intermediate School principal
CENTRAL — With less than four weeks left until students arrive, the large courtyard in the center of the new Central Intermediate and Middle schools is at present mostly a jumble of dirt and concrete.
In the coming days, though, the expanse will blossom into something much different, punctuated by a sundial, geographic maps, a “fractions pad,” a checkerboard, a number chart, a measuring line, and a replica of the solar system with an under construction clock tower serving as the sun.
“I went outside today and looked at some of it,” said Rhonda Taylor, principal of Central Intermediate. “It’s breathtaking to me. I stand there in awe. It’s something we dreamed about.”
Taylor said she and her teachers offered designers a lot of thoughts prior to construction on what to include in the new school.
“Everything we talked about, they’ve incorporated,” she said.
The new Central Middle and Intermediate schools have been under construction since late 2010. The $46 million, 233,000-square-foot, 88-acre complex is racing to completion.
The new schools will replace the current Central Middle and Central Intermediate schools and will educate children in grades three through eight, up to 300 students per grade.
The new schools are the first the Central community has built since breaking away from the East Baton Rouge Parish school system in 2007 and formed its own district. The schools are being financed by a bond initiative voters approved in 2009.
Arkel Constructors Inc./Roy Anderson Corp. are the two firms jointly handling the construction.
While the main buildings are mostly complete, much exterior work is left to do before students arrive Aug. 13. Sullivan Road is getting repaved and is closed to through traffic. The road connecting Sullivan to the school has yet to be poured.
“It’s a tight schedule,” said Ross Bogan, Central’s construction coordinator.
“The weather has just been killing us,” Bogan said. “It rained all last week.”
The courtyard construction, long planned for the end of the job, looks to be a sprint as well.
Phil Rutter, principal architect for PBK, the architectural firm that designed the school, said he helped design an instructional courtyard at a school in Texas but Central’s courtyard is bigger and more elaborate.
“The whole concept is you might as well take advantage of all the outdoor space you have,” Rutter said.
The courtyard is punctuated by two large circles and gazebos — one set for the middle school side, the other for the intermediate school side.
Workers on Wednesday were pouring cement in the courtyard, starting at the middle school end. As the cement hardens, workers apply color to it and stamp some sections so that they resemble bricks.
Near where the workers were pouring and smoothing out were two oval sections that will later have maps stenciled upon them, one of all 50 states of the United States, the other just one state, Louisiana.
The intermediate school courtyard is the most full of design elements of the two. Several different sized circular gaps in the concrete will be filled by the planets of the solar system.
Taylor said she’s looking forward to the measuring line that is being installed.
“It’s even hard for me to measure how much 50 feet is, but if I can see it, that helps,” she said.
Taylor, who said she has never worked at a school with such a courtyard, said that the courtyard has room for more uses as the teachers think of them.
“There are just so many possibilities,” she said. “It’s just about endless.”