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Peek Inside Downtown's Sparkling New Spruce Street School

By Julie Shapiro | June 3, 2011 5:06pm | Updated on June 4, 2011 10:07am

By Julie Shapiro

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

LOWER MANHATTAN — Paint cans still litter some of the 26 classrooms at the sparkling new Spruce Street School.

The cafeteria won't be ready for another few weeks at the downtown school, which took years of negotiations and construction.

But basketball hoops are already hanging in the capacious gym, and the auditorium's 300 wooden seats are ready for an audience.

"This is great," Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said he took a tour of the new school Friday morning. "You have everything here."

The four-story brick school — which forms the base of Frank Gehry's rippling 76-story apartment tower — will open its doors in September with more than 200 students from pre-K to second grade. It is slated to eventually grow into a full elementary and middle school.

Walcott and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who fought for years for the school to be built, were particularly impressed with a 5,000-square-foot rooftop play space, with views of City Hall and Gehry's tower rising above.

Principal Nancy Harris, who started the Spruce Street School two years ago in temporary space in Tweed Courthouse, told Walcott and Silver that she is very much looking forward to moving into her new 630-seat home.

"It's gorgeous," Harris said with a broad smile. "It's huge. It's beautiful."

The hallways are painted marigold, turquoise and red-orange, with decorative tiling spelling out vocabulary words, like "Audience," "Clap" and "Applause" outside of the auditorium.

Every classroom will have a SmartBoard, two iMacs and a laser printer, along with wireless internet. The 8,000-volume library will also feature e-books and audio books, Harris said.

Karen Stonely, a vice president of Spruce's PTA, said she was thrilled with the space and was eager to tell other parents about it.

"It's really nice to see everything for real," Stonely said. "It's great that this is finally happening and the kids are moving in."

The Spruce Street School will share the building with P.S. 94, a special education school that serves autistic children. P.S. 94 will have four classrooms on the building's second floor.

After the tour, Walcott addressed one of Spruce parents' biggest concerns: that elementary overcrowding in lower Manhattan will prevent Spruce from opening its middle school as planned in 2015.

Spruce can hold only two classes per grade but this fall will take in four kindergartens because of the swelling population downtown, which parents fear could put the middle school in jeopardy down the road.

Walcott said the Department of Education would keep its promise to allow Spruce to grow.

"There will be a middle school," Walcott said. "You have my guarantee: This will be a pre-K to 8 school."