As students walked into the gymnasium of Florida A&M University’s Development and Research School, their eyes lit up with amazement. The well lit space came complete with a full basketball court, scoreboard and bleachers. The finishing touch was the high gloss court with an enormous painted FAMU rattlesnake in the middle.
“If you look around, the kids really enjoy it. They named (the gym) the snake pit because of the huge snake on the floor,” said Rick Davis, FAMU DRS’ boys basketball coach. “It has a dual court so I can have my JV and Varsity practice at the same time. We have an 84-foot full court. It’s much better than the place we came from because we didn’t have any AC or heat; we had problems with the lighting. Here, we have all the lighting that we can ask for.”
The new gym is part of FAMU DRS’ new location on Wahnish Way and is only a fraction of what the new school has to offer.
Officially opened on Jan. 5, FAMU DRS kicked off 2009 with a number of new features at the new school like a wireless network system throughout the entire campus, smart boards in each classroom and a TV production room.
FAMU DRS Superintendent Ronald Holmes is pleased with the new school.
“With this building, FAMU DRS is provided with state of the art equipment, resources and technology where students can gain information quickly and can use that information wisely and most importantly, students can have a faster way of learning the necessary skills for them to be successful in the real world,” Holmes said.
Teachers are also pleased with the new facility.
“I think the new building will eliminate one more distraction as far as the facility,” said sixth grade teacher William Cook. “A lot of times when kids don’t see a pretty building, they see kind of a rundown building, they won’t be as motivated. I think with all of the new state of the art things that we have here at the new school that will be something that will basically allow them to achieve more.”
FAMU DRS, a state funded project that cost the $30 million, includes six complexes: administrative complex, elementary, middle, and high school complexes, a gymnasium, and a cafetorium, which is a mix between an auditorium and cafeteria.
Holmes explained that the process for building the school took three years; a process that was in development before he became superintendent.
Regarding safety for the students and staff, Holmes explained that the new school will have a feature that is connected to the university’s police department.
“We have technology in the area of security,” Holmes said.
“This entire building, in a standpoint of security, is a wired network with the university police station.”
Having so much extra space and improvements in almost every aspect, Holmes said he is hoping enrollment will dramatically increase more than it has already.
“Last year, we had a total of 366 students. This school year, fall 2008, we increased the enrollment by 104 students so by December 2008 it was 469,” Holmes explained. “For this semester we may have 10 to 15 students that may enroll for January, which is not typical, but in the fall we are projecting, in fact, we are recruiting approximately 300 students. We plan to get maximum capacity for the fall, which would be 746 students.”
“The infrastructure has already been laid (for the auditorium) so now we just have to find the additional funds for that project to take place,” Holmes said.