WILMINGTON — A busy summer’s worth of work at Ursuline Academy will continue into the winter, but administrators are thrilled at what awaits the Wilmington school community.
Two projects commanded most of the attention over the summer: the renovation of the former convent into a student life center and the replacement of the playground behind the lower school. The Anthony N. Fusco Student Life Center, named after the prominent Delaware businessman and philanthropist, will benefit all of the members of the school family.
Ursuline president Trisha Medeiros said the building will house new dining areas; a state-of-the-art library; collaborative learning space; rooms for art, dance and theatre; a chapel; administrative offices; and a student atrium with glass walls allowing a view of the Cool Springs Reservoir behind Ursuline.
“It’s really going to be the center of campus in a lot of ways,” Medeiros said. “All children of any age will have access to the building. We’ve gone to great lengths to preserve the history of the building. Parts of it are over a hundred years old.
“I’m most excited about the student atrium, which will be a gathering space for our girls and small boys.”
Officials had hoped originally to have the center open for the beginning of this school year, but now are looking at a January blessing and dedication. Workers from EDiS Co., which is managing the project, were busy taking advantage of the dry weather in late August getting as much work as they could done.
The school is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, and they have scheduled several activities to mark the milestone. Inside the Student Life Center, they will have a uniform display, including those for school, gym and athletics.
“Alums are sending them in, and we’re going to have a beautiful uniform collection through the years,” said Debbie Hurd, the marketing manager.
Other events include a 5K, golf outing and the second induction ceremony for the Ursuline Athletics Hall of Fame.
It will all kick off with a gala event on Nov. 9 at the Dupont Country Club, which is open to current and former students, families and supporters of the academy. The night will include a meal, dancing, an auction, raffles and more.
“A lot of action. It’s hard to keep track. It’s been hopping, but there’s been a lot of great energy,” Medeiros said.
Some work, and some play.
While the Student Life Center fully resembled a construction scene in late August, the playground for the Lower School appeared ready to accept students, although the adjacent basketball court was still awaiting a surface and painting.
Laura Fodge, the Lower School principal, said the old playground was in decent shape, but it needed improvements and lacked some features the new one has. She interviewed fourth- and fifth-grade students last year to see what they wanted in a playground, and many talked about climbing and “various movement-type activities.”
Along those lines, the playground features monkey bars that lead across the apparatus to a climbing wall. There are two sliding boards, and the benches are designed for climbing as well. But physical stimulation is not the only area addressed.
“We put some sensory items in there, too. It’s got a little sound garden in there, it’s got a rain wheel and tom-tom drums,” Fodge said.
Another feature is a “buddy bench,” where children can go if they are having trouble finding a companion, and an outdoor classroom will be added. Medeiros said students requested zip lines as well, but they did not make the cut.
Fodge said to mark the opening of the playground, which was scheduled for Aug. 30, students would be receiving T-shirts that said, “I play at UA.”
Medeiros, in her second year as president, has kept busy during her short tenure, but enrollment is up this year and things are happening at Ursuline.
“It’s an exciting year for us,” she said. “We have a lot going on.”