April 6, 2022

New Construction at Charter School Adds Space, Capacity to Campus

SPACE AT LAST: The new fourth grade classroom at Princeton Charter School is among additions, designed by architect Michael Farewell, to the campus on Bunn Drive.

By Anne Levin

Thanks to the completion of a two-year construction project, fourth and fifth grade students at Princeton Charter School have moved out of temporary trailers into new, spacious, light-filled classrooms.

The $5.6 project, which will be celebrated Thursday, April 7 with a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by State Sen. Andrew Zwicker, Mayor Mark Freda, members of Princeton Council, and other guests, also includes an expansion of the cafeteria, allowing for more reasonable lunch hours and a space for after-school programs.

“This is massive for us,” said Head of School Larry Patton. “We so needed the extra capacity. Our students and parents are thrilled, and the fourth and fifth graders are just loving the space.”

Founded 25 years ago, Princeton Charter School was originally in a former office building at 100 Bunn Drive, and has expanded over the years. The new classrooms and cafeteria were needed to accommodate the full student enrollment of 424 students from its expansion in 2017. Fourth graders had been in the trailers since 2017, the first year of the school’s expansion. The fifth graders are in two new classrooms connected to the middle school, freeing up space in the main building that will ease the demands of its schedule.

The new classrooms are located between the lower and upper school buildings, “literally and figuratively bridging the space between the two divisions,” reads a press release from the school. Patton appreciates the design created by

Michael Farewell, who also designed the earlier campus center project.

“The new spaces are bright, filled with natural light, and provide a great space for our students,” Patton said. “They also create a great flow for movement around the campus. The additional space allows us to manage the challenges of our academic schedule caused by specialized classes and smaller sections in math, English, and world languages.”

The three new buildings were built by Len Scozzari of Scozzari Builders Inc. “The project knits the campus architecture and landscape together while providing large, airy classrooms and cafeteria,” said Farewell. “The arc of buildings frames an outdoor room, with an ampitheater stepping up to the upper campus. This is a collection of individual buildings now brought into a campus assembly.”

Princeton Charter School funded the majority of the project through a second mortgage financed by Peapack-Gladstone Bank. The remaining funds were raised through donations from current and former parents and community supporters. None of the funding for the project came from the recently passed $17.5 million bond referendum to finance facility improvements in the Princeton Public Schools district.  Charter schools, although they are public schools, do not receive any funds from public school bond referendums.

The original facility was far from ideal. Scheduling has been complicated, and classroom availability has been a constant challenge.

“We care about the instruction in the classroom more than we care about the classroom,” said Patton. “We’ve always been focused on that. But I will say, the mood and feel of these new spaces has been uplifting for me, and the improvement to the campus just feels really good. We’re getting our students out of the trailers — which were fine — but this is much better space and light and connectivity. It really helps them.”