A grand opening and ribbon cutting ceremony were held this week at the newly rebuilt A.K. Suter Elementary School in East Pensacola Heights.
Teachers moved in over the December holiday break, and students began having class in the new building last January, but the grand opening was delayed until this week due to outstanding construction. The project included removing the old school building, constructing a covered play area for physical education classes and activities, and installing a parking lot and car rider driveway. The new building was erected on the same lot which has been occupied by the school since Annie K. Suter Elementary opened its doors in 1921.
Superintendent Malcolm Thomas praised the project’s architects and contractors for managing to build a new school in a small space, right next to the old building, while allowing classes to continue operating with very limited interference with the instructional process.
“Seven years ago, there was a moment for A.K. Suter Elementary when it looked like the school might close due to declining enrollment,” Thomas explained. “For generations to come, there will be students in East Pensacola that will have a great facility to come to where the most important thing that’s going to occur is learning, each and every day.”
For architect Michael Crawford of Caldwell and Associates, this project was both a special challenge and a privilege. “It’s not often as an architect that you get to design your own children’s school,” said Crawford. “I feel lucky, blessed and proud to have been able to participate in the making of this piece of public art.”
“We knew this building would have to last 75 or 100 years, and we only got one shot at designing a school that will inspire students as much then as it did the day it was opened,” Crawford added.
Many of the speakers at the grand opening ceremony praised the collaboration between Caldwell Associates’ architects, Morette Company’s contractors, engineers, and tradesmen, the District facilities management staff, the school’s leadership and faculty, and the entire A.K. Suter community and family.