SCPA comes long way in short time

School’s new $5 million addition nears completion

St. Croix Preparatory Academy's new science lab is part of the schools nearly complete expansion.
St. Croix Preparatory Academy’s new science lab is part of the schools nearly complete expansion.

BAYTOWN TOWNSHIP — St. Croix Preparatory Academy has come a long way from its original home in the current U.S. Postal Service office on Myrtle Street. Today, the charter school has more students and more space — a new 25,000-square-foot addition nearing completion.

The $5 million project began in September, finished on time and under budget and has only a few things left to add, according to SCPA Executive Director Jon Gutierrez.

The new addition was built to accommodate the school’s growing student population. SCPA expects to reach full enrollment of 1,170 students in the next two years.

A new classroom in the SCPA expansion.

The two-story addition includes six classrooms for middle school students, a new science lab, more office space for staff, cafeteria space, locker rooms and a fitness room.

Before the addition, SCPA middle school students in grades 5 through 8 and the upper school intersected when students went to their classes. The new classrooms allow middle schoolers to have their classes closer together instead of spread throughout the building.

“You’d be surprised how quiet passing time is now,” Gutierrez said with a laugh.

The athletic rooms were planned to benefit SCPA student-athletes so they could come to school, go to practice, shower and go to class in the morning. But Gutierrez hopes the new athletic areas encourage more public use of their facilities.

A 7,000-square-foot performing arts space was also included in the addition. The arts center will host future meetings, assemblies and community events and also prevent interference with gym space schedules.

“Any time we had concerts, plays, and assemblies before, we’d have to kick people out of the gym,” Gutierrez said. “There was no space except for the gym for these kind of things and this allows us to keep the gym program intact and seat 375 people, which is almost triple to what we could do in the gym.”

Some work remains to be done in SCPA’s original building such as converting a classroom to a school shop and constructing a concession stand with a service window into the atrium. The school also needs to purchase weight room equipment and seating and lights and equipment for the performance space. But the overall project is complete, according to Gutierrez.

“My reaction to getting the project finished was one of excitement and relief,” he said. “We built the school four years ago, and it’s always more chaotic to do construction when school’s in session. It disrupted schedules and disrupted staff and we were pretty tired of it by the end. But we were excited by it too.”

Although this addition is something that Gutierrez said adds all the space SCPA needs going forward, he admits that he would never say never to possibly having to do more future construction at the school.

“Our next stage will probably be working on the athletics fields, to develop the grading of the sites and the utilities for the field. It would give us a lot of breathing room to continue our sports programming.” he said.

Gutierrez believes the new addition will benefit the school, its students and the community.

“We had some alumni come back recently and they were blown away by it,” he said. “It was fun to see them look around and take it all in because they had never had this before.”