Those passing the crossroads of North Claymont Street and Todds Lane in the Riverside neighborhood of Wilmington this past year have probably noticed a fleet of excavators, metal beams, and lots and lots of dirt.
That’s because EastSide Charter School is making significant progress on its construction of a new $26.5 million hub for Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
The STEM hub broke ground in February and is a year away from opening in January 2025.
“Initially, we had to phase this project because we weren’t sure we were going to get enough funding for our entire vision,” said Nick Medaglio, director of finance at EastSide Charter. “Once we did get enough funding, we were able to greenlight everything and things started to move.”
The needed funding finally became completely available in July, he said.
And although he estimates the project is about 25%-30% complete, most of the hub’s foundation is complete and the construction team will soon be building vertically.
“We’re gonna start going vertical with steel over the next month or so, which is going to make it feel like and look like a lot more work has been done, even though there’s already been a lot of groundwork that’s been done,” Medaglio said.
Just like any construction project, Medaglio said some of the challenges and delays have been caused by the rising costs of materials as well as poor weather conditions.
The 24,000-square-foot space is completely externally funded by a number of community organizations.
“This is all being funded, not by the school, but by First Community Foundation, which is the nonprofit that owns our land and the building,” Medaglio said. “They are doing all the fundraising for it, and we’ve cobbled this together with the help of other major grants.”
“The Chemours STEM Hub at EastSide will be an amazing opportunity for anyone in Delaware to have an opportunity to learn about STEM and engage in internships with companies that will be offering job opportunities,” said Aaron Bass, chief executive officer of EastSide. “We know that STEM is the number one driver of our state and we wanted to make sure that all Delawareans are able to have access to great careers.”
Along with classes, the hub will feature a maker’s space with professional machinery, a 3D printing lab, computer coding labs, experimental science labs, and a music and tv studio.
And with all the community partners involved in funding the hub, the benefits of it are for more than just EastSide students.
Bass has previously compared the STEM hub to a public library, saying that it is for all children and adults in Delaware. There will also be classes available for adults looking to enter into STEM careers.
“The STEM Hub is the first-of-a-kind experience here in Delaware through a partnership between the private sector, nonprofits and foundations to ensure access for everyone,” Bass said. “In addition to STEM we also have mental health professionals that will also be offering services to the public to make sure that we are adequately addressing all the needs of our community.”
Although the golden goose is the STEM hub, there’s also about $1.8 million in other construction renovations happening at the school.
“One of the things we wanted to keep in mind is yes, we’re getting this really nice expansion, but we didn’t want to just completely neglect the main campus,” Medaglio said. “They’re going to be one building, so we didn’t want it to seem like there’s this really shiny, great new wing and then the older building is neglected.”
The nurses’ space and the school’s mental health suites have already been renovated.
“Through this project, we’re also going to be replacing doors, potentially getting new ceilings, and also the main campus is going to have new air conditioning units put into all of our older classrooms,” Medaglio said. “They currently have window units since this is a building from the 1960s, so there’s no central air in the building.”
The HVAC is expected to be upgraded by summer 2025.
EastSide also has a new student-based health center in its vision.
These centers have become popular in Delaware schools in recent years. They use the help of community-based health systems to provide physical and mental health services to students in the school building.
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
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