By LESLIE COLLINS
August 28, 2013
Students will once again fill the halls of the former Don Bosco high school, 535 Garfield Ave.
The charter high school closed in 2011, but The Don Bosco Centers continued to use the building for youth programs, administrative offices and its English as a Second Language (ESL) program.
This past spring, Don Bosco vacated the building, put it up for sale and moved the administrative offices into the Don Bosco Senior Center. The ESL program is now located inside St. Anthony’s Parish on Benton Boulevard.
Scuola Vita Nuova Charter School officially closed on the sale at the end of June and plans to move into the school for the 2014-2015 school year.
“I’m pleased it’s going to be used that way. To keep it a school, it’s just passing the torch,” said Leslie Gasser, fund development director at Don Bosco.
Gasser said the building on Garfield cost Don Bosco thousands of dollars in utilities every month and that it provided more space than the organization needed.
“It didn’t make sense (to keep the building),” she said.
But for Scuola Vita Nuova, the building is exactly what the charter school needs.
“It will be exciting,” said Scuola Vita Principal Nicole Goodman. “That property over there will allow us to expand if that’s something we want to do.”
Scuola Vita currently leases 544 Wabash Ave., but the school has outgrown the space. Classrooms and the multipurpose room are cramped, and offering more than one section per grade is not an option. This school year, 180 students are enrolled in grades kindergarten through eighth.
In the former Don Bosco high school building, Scuola Vita teachers will gain double the classroom space, which will allow them do more classroom activities and further meet the needs of the students, Goodman said.
“When the teachers went over and looked, it’s just like, ‘Wow. Oh, my gosh, look at this big room,'” she said. “They’re already figuring out who’s going to have what room.”
Architects are continuing to meet with Scuola Vita to decide how to best utilize the new space. Inside, there will be new carpet, fresh paint and the lower level parking lot will be turned into a green space. The front entrance will also be revamped, creating a secure and welcoming entrance. In the future, as part of Phase II, Scuola Vita hopes to build an addition to accommodate more students.
Thanks to the additional space at 535 Garfield Ave., Scuola Vita will be able to add additional after-school programming and hopefully offer more sports opportunities, Goodman said.
Scuola Vita also wants to strengthen its relationship with the Northeast community and with neighboring organizations like the Pendleton Heights Neighborhood Association, Jerusalem Farms, area churches and the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences.
“Something that was very important to us was making sure we remained in the Northeast community, especially Pendleton Heights,” Goodman said. “We just hope that we can be a positive and strong influence for the community, that we can expand some day and serve more kids in this community.”