On Monday afternoon, the Long Island City school’s administration joined elected officials, city agencies and the school community to break ground on the four-story, 969-seat school. Construction has already begun, and the building is set to open by September 2021.
The $118 million project will feature 30 standard classrooms, two district special education classrooms and three resource rooms. The facility will have a gym with lock rooms, two science labs and prep rooms, a classroom for music and art, a technology lab, a medical suite and a new library.
For recreation, students will have an outdoor play area with four handball courts, a half-court for basketball and a reading area.
Principal William Bassell said though planning for the building began in earnest three years ago, the project was more than 20 years in the making. The Academy for American Studies currently splits its classes between two buildings, including one that houses Newcomers High School, which will also expand after the move.
“Every kid deserves to have an education in a wonderful, state-of-the-art building,” Bassell said. “Our kids are going to have it.”
Assemblywoman Cathy Nolan, who represents Long Island City and is the chair of the Assembly’s Education Committee, said she recalled when the school opened more than two decades ago.
At the time, she said, officials told them the school would have a new building “within a few years.”
“Of course, it took a lot longer than that,” Nolan said.
The assemblywoman said the new home will make a difference, especially for students who have to go between buildings for class.
“It’s important that you don’t have to put your coat on every time you go to your science class,” Nolan said.
When the Academy of American Studies was founded, it was initially housed on the fourth floor of the former school building for Long Island City High School, which moved to its current location in 1995.
State Senator Michael Gianaris, an alumnus of Long Island City High School, said he remembers coming to the school building and running around in the yard where the new facility is being built.
State Senator-elect Jessica Ramos, meanwhile, graduated from the Academy of American Studies in 2003. Even when she was attending the school, she said, students had heard they were getting a new building.
“I’m so glad that it’s finally happening,” she said.
Ramos said the school’s teachers, classes and assignments, such as debating whether Thomas Jefferson was a product of his time or a ten-page paper on the Civil War, helped shape the person she is today.
“The Academy of American Studies has always been a very special place that has lent a lot of perspective to who we are and where we are in this moment in time,” Ramos said. “It’s a large part of why I decided to run for office.”