It’s not easy to simultaneously impress 10-year-old twins and their father.
But the new Bancroft Elementary School managed to do just that this week as the building officially welcomed its first roster of students to class.
While Wednesday marked the first day of school for students all across Andover, many Bancroft students were treated to a sneak preview of their new $50 million school on Tuesday. And they liked what they saw.
“It’s amazing!” fourth-grader Maddy Robertson said.
“It’s very big and great and I love it,” said 9-year-old Ashley DiBenedetto, who called the media room her favorite part.
Zachary Chisholm, 10, was impressed with the art room, “because they have, like, clay spinning tables,” while his twin brother, Jacob, just liked the overall design.
“It looks really nice,” Jacob said.
The newness wasn’t lost on their father, Mark Chisholm.
“I think it’s awesome,” he said. “I’m impressed with the layout, the natural light and the architectural detail. The kids are really psyched and can’t wait for their first day.”
You name it, the new school has it. But while Bancroft students and parents are sure to be excited by the new features, a sense of their old school that once stood next door, now demolished, still remains.
Major staples of the former building, including its old castle-like doors, have been retained to create a feeling of comfort and togetherness for students. The doors, which were installed in the 1960s when the original Bancroft was built, are now prominently displayed in the library next to a children’s reading area and several iMac computers for quick catalog searching.
“The old building was designed to be similar to a castle,” Principal Dr. Malcolm Forsman said during a tour of the new school last Friday. “So when you walked in, you had a little foyer, then a ramp that went up to a media center that was the center part of the school. These doors were on the ramp, so they are an icon of Bancroft and to remember and honor the old Bancroft, we had these brought over.”
While the new Bancroft isn’t designed as an open-concept school like the original, where classrooms freely flowed into one another to create one large community across all ages and grades, it does still offer a communal fee.
Tom Deso, the outgoing School Building Committee chairman, said his fellow members as well as school leaders were very sensitive to the unique qualities of the old Bancroft as they set out to build “a more standard school.”
“We knew that in the new school, obviously, that we’d have classrooms with doors,” Deso said. “First of all, this school is naturally a lot brighter than the old Bancroft School was; all of the classrooms have windows and we have skylights on the third floor. The wire hallways give the feeling of openness and make you feel like you’re looking into something expansive.”
Along with a spacious library and bright classrooms equipped with modern technology — such as projection screens and white boards, students will also get the opportunity to take part in art and music classes.
Built with a studio-type approach, the art room features polished concrete floors and is equipped with electric pottery wheels, Deso said.
The hallway leading to the music suites has music notes painted on the wall — to the actual tune of the Bancroft song. Three pianos have been purchased — two for the music wing and one for the stage of the cafeteria-auditorium.
For students whose favorite subject of the day is lunch, they won’t be disappointed either. State-of-the-art kitchen equipment allows for mass production, so much so that prepared food will be transported on a daily basis to both Shawsheen Elementary and West Middle schools. The equipment allows for up to 28 pans of food to be kept ready to serve. Barbecue chicken sandwiches and deluxe burgers were on the menu for the first day of school.
“Everything in the kitchen is real top quality,” said Gail Koutroubas, the director of food services for Andover Public Schools. “We’re going to be smart about it and use some of the money that was invested here to service some of the other schools.”
The cafeteria design also kept in mind the environment, with new dishwashers allowing reusable lunch trays to be put into action.
“We realized that we wanted to have dishwashers in our school, so we made a serious investment,” Koutroubas said. “The kids will be using reusable trays. It’s going to require a little more labor, but in the end, it’s better for the environment so we’re excited about that.”
The school was formally issued its certificate of occupancy last Friday and crews were still busy early this week working on the finite details of the building several years in the making. Parking was scarce for Tuesday’s open house as the main parking lot continued to be paved, leaving some to car pool and others to park along adjacent side streets.
But on Wednesday, teachers and staff successfully welcomed the 480 students who will trek through Bancroft’s halls this year. While each grade has five classrooms assigned to it, only four will be used this year. When a redistricting plan takes effect next year, 625 students will call Bancroft home, putting it at 93 percent of its 700-student capacity.