By Tim O’Meilia
Gulf Stream School, the only school on the barrier island between the Hillsboro Inlet and Palm Beach, will add three classrooms and revamp a longstanding open-air pavilion beginning this spring.
The addition will allow the private school to move some upper school classes out of the school library and out of smaller rooms designed for younger students.
“We are extremely excited about this,” said Head of School Joe Zaluski. “This will improve our ability to provide an excellent education for our students.”
The expansion will add 4,900 square feet and school officials have budgeted $1.2 million for the project, although the precise cost won’t be known until bids are opened this spring.
In the heart of the campus, the pavilion where generations of Gulf Stream School students have munched their lunchtime sandwiches and sipped their milk will be demolished.
“The pavilion is really a part of the school culture,” said Zaluski. “The students get to go outside, eat their lunch. It’s the centerpiece of where the students congregate.”
But the demolition of the Crocker Pavilion won’t mark the end of a school tradition.
In its place will rise a new pavilion with a second story of three classrooms to accommodate fifth- through eighth-grade classes. The pavilion beneath the classrooms will be fitted with sliding glass windows to accommodate the lunches and allow for an air-conditioned space for bad weather or other uses. The new Crocker Pavilion will connect with the two-story building that houses the Benet Library.
The official groundbreaking is set for April. The bulk of the construction will be done during the summer and school officials hope to complete the work by the school’s 75th anniversary Dec. 7.
“We’re not increasing our enrollment,” Zaluski said. The school reached its 250-student cap years ago under an 18-year-old agreement with the town of Gulf Stream. “We’re not going to exceed that number. We are committed to small class sizes.”
Instead, the school is trying to match facilities to its enrollment. “What we had seven or eight years ago was sufficient. Today it’s not,” he said. The school admits 3-year-old through eighth-grade students.
The Town Commission unanimously approved the site plan, the demolition and several variances Jan. 11 to allow the construction. Greg Young, chairman of the school’s board of directors, assured commissioners that the school was not adding enrollment or expanding on its 2.5-acre campus.
“I think all of us feel you did one heck of a great design,” Commissioner Bob Ganger told school architect Rene Tercilla, whose firm designed the school’s library eight years ago. The new building fits the Bermuda-style architecture of the school.
His firm, Tercilla Courtemanche Architects of West Palm Beach, also designed the Bak Middle School of the Arts and the new Palm Beach Gardens High School.
The school launched a $2.5 million capital drive that includes the expansion, a $1 million addition to the school’s endowment and $300,000 for academic and faculty programs. The school’s parent auxiliary has raised $250,000, Zaluski said, and at least one major gift has been pledged.
Construction will not begin until the money for the work is in hand or pledged, in conjunction with the school’s no-debt policy, said Zaluski, adding the decades-old policy has served the school well.
“We’re never raising money to pay off debt,” he said.