By DUSTIN RACIOPPI
Rumson Country Day School was due for an upgrade.
Since its last addition, in 1990, space slowly filled with more students, technology moved at speeds that outpaced the capability of the infrastructure to keep up, and in some parts of the school there wasn’t even air conditioning. Still isn’t.
But in the last year, workers put in hours and sweat to bring Country Day to another level, and it was done on a level befitting the independent school: a new $10 million, 22,000 square-foot wing with all the bells and whistles, from the Apple computers to the parking lot that needs to be vacuumed.
Construction of the William I. Riker Academic Center, named for an alumnus who passed away this year, wrapped up, barely, in time for students to return to school two weeks ago.
“We were biting our nails, but we got there,” Head of School Chad Small said.
The results came back positive, Small said.
“When we opened the school, it was so exciting to see the kids go, ‘Wow, this is so cool.’ And the teachers are just ecstatic to have more space,” he said. “That’s what makes it fun.”
A couple of jaws dropped, Small said, and it’s easy to see how the Riker wing can have that effect. It begins when you walk through the door to a spacious, pristine lounge area outfitted with couches and tables. To the left is the library, full of tidy rows of bookshelves anchored by a study center of Apple desktops and iPads. The library is an addition Small is especially excited about.
“The is the first time the school has built a library to be a library,” he said. “It’s the hub of the school.”
Upstairs is home to new classrooms, mainly science laboratories and art studios.
There are subtle features to the addition that put the school on the cutting edge of technology and sustainability, construction manager Steven Callari said. An abundance of windows keeps the need for artificial light minimal. A temperature control system maintains the same temperature year-round. The wing is outfitted with a fiber optic system that makes for easy tech upgrades. The carpet is made from recycled material and only needs to be vacuumed a couple times a year. Same for the parking lot, which isn’t made from pavement, but a porous mixture of materials that allow water to drain into the ground.
“Really, the entire structure was built for future growth,” Callari said.
It will also allow for growth in numbers. Small said enrollment has increased the last few years, and now the school can better accommodate new students. But that wasn’t the intent. It will keep class sizes small and allow the school to enhance its curriculum, Small said.
Above all, he added, “It’s allowed us to kind of stretch out and get some more room. It’s really made a gigantic difference.”