By Julie Shapiro
BATTERY PARK CITY — When John Woelfling was designing Battery Park City's new P.S./I.S. 276, he came across a children’s book called "Sideways Stories from Wayside School" by Louis Sachar.
In the book, the school’s contractor accidentally builds the 30 classrooms one on top of the other, in a tower, rather than putting them all on one floor.
Unlike the book, it's no accident that P.S. 276 is taller than the average school. The narrow slip of land and zoning codes at 55 Batter Place made it easier to go up than build out.
"This is definitely a unique facility," Woelfling said Wednesday morning as he gave a tour of the eight-story building after a ribbon cutting at the $81 million elementary and middle school.
Just before the school’s first graders brought the audience to their feet by singing "This Land is Your Land," Schools Chancellor Joel Klein described the new school as a strong reminder of downtown’s rebirth following 9/11.
"Think about how far we’ve come in less than a decade, and how powerful that is," Klein told the crowd of parents and teachers.
In addition to being taller than most schools, P.S./I.S. 276 is also the greenest school ever built in New York, with solar panels that will soon power up to half the school’s lights and a recycling program that starts with the preschoolers.
Woelfling said his favorite feature is an outdoor science classroom overlooking New York Harbor. Vines and other plants will form a green wall, and the photovoltaic panels will provide a roof, literally surrounding students in the environmental topics they study.
P.S./I.S. 276 is still growing and will eventually hold 950 students, including 100 in a special education program.
While the school took some pressure off downtown’s overcrowded classrooms, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said more needs to be done.
"I hope that in the not to distant future we’ll be back here downtown," Silver told Klein with a smile, "and we’ll add a few more."