A week before Capital Area School for the Arts (CASA) was set to welcome students back, construction at the campus was just finishing.
In a nick of time, the charter school completed a classroom expansion project at its campus in Strawberry Square in downtown Harrisburg.
“At this time last year, we had no idea we would be doing this,” Principal Tim Wendling said.
CASA formerly leased classroom space from Temple University, which is also in Strawberry Square. However, last November, Wendling found out that would no longer be an option.
“We love being in Strawberry Square so much, and we wanted to stay here,” he said.
For a school focused on multi-disciplinary arts and academics, the downtown location allows the students to use the city as their classroom, Wendling said.
He added that the school had wanted to find their own space, but that was always a three- to five-year plan. Now, they had to tackle this within a matter of months.
Luckily, there was a third-floor area available where Gamut Theatre previously resided before relocating across 4th Street into their own building a few years ago.
“It was a tough situation, but I think it turned out great, and I’m glad Strawberry Square had the space,” Wendling said.
The new part of campus offers 10 classrooms, two offices and a faculty room. There’s even a student lounge area overlooking the Strawberry Square atrium.
While the rooms in their first-floor space are dedicated to art, dance, music and theater classes, the third-floor rooms are primarily for general academic courses. Wendling is especially excited about the new science lab, the school’s first.
“Having our own space gives a whole other dynamic to what we can offer our kids,” Wendling said. “It was really great to have them come back and see it. They were really excited.”
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, CASA operates a hybrid in-person and virtual class schedule. On Mondays and Tuesdays, ninth- and 10th-graders attend in-person classes. On Thursdays and Fridays, 11th- and 12th-grade students go in. On the days they don’t go in, students learn online.
Now in their larger classrooms, provided by the expansion, students can more easily social distance. CASA usually has around 200 students enrolled each year.
The total cost for the expansion is $1.7 million. CASA is still campaigning to raise funds to cover the project.
“It was so worth it,” Wendling said. “I’m glad we found our permanent home.”
For more information on Capital Area School for the Arts Charter School, visit https://www.casa-arts.org/.
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