NEW BEDFORD — Late Friday afternoon, several Alma del Mar students went to a station to dip one or two hands in yellow, dark or light blue paint and press it onto two large pieces of cloth that will hang in their new school on Earle Street named after Frederick Douglass.
One of the pieces of cloth read “Learn, lead, serve, succeed” in all capital letters while the other had the name of the campus on it.
Before an official welcome by Principal Taylor DeLoach and Board of Trustees Chairwoman Jan Baptist, a dark blue sparkly “carpet” was rolled out, leading the way to the front doors.
Walking into the new school with his son, first grader Liam and wife Leilannie, Lee Charlton II said the name “means a lot for the community of New Bedford,” and to him personally, as an African American man, in terms of what Douglass stood and fought for.
Douglass lived and voted in New Bedford after he escaped slavery, now remembered as a powerful orator and writer.
The doors of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception’s former school building opened up to a small basketball court where families visited different stations to get information before school starts on Monday morning.
About an hour later, more families were standing in line to get information. Ericka Castellano was one of them.
Castellano said she was “pleasantly surprised” with the school building, adding that she expected something more outdated. She noted signs on the walls that fit with Alma del Mar’s identity, she said.
Her second grader son Christopher initially didn’t make the lottery and was put on the waitlist. Castellano said her son needs a more structured day and she really likes that school uniforms are mandatory. She said uniforms are easier on everyone and eliminates kids getting bullied for what they wear to school.
Spokeswoman Becca Kurie told The Standard-Times that over $300,000 worth of renovations were put into the building such as windows, floor tiling, paint and school security measures.
Forty new staff members were hired this year between the two schools, the Douglass campus and the recently renamed flagship Sarah D. Ottiwell campus which is a short walk away.
The school is still working on hiring a sixth grade math teacher, but a veteran teacher will split her time between the two schools for now.
Baptist said she was born in the neighborhood, lived there for 19 years and went to the close-by church. “I still feel that connection, so to see my old digs come alive again for a mission that I believe in so much is very exciting and I’m so happy that you’re going to be our founding group here,” she told families.
DeLoach said staff have been working “tirelessly” to get the building ready. DeLoach, a black woman herself, also noted the campus name. “We cannot wait to help your scholars develop into service-minded leaders just like he (Douglass) was and give back to this wonderful community of New Bedford,” she said.
Danielle Parkman took pictures of her daughter Kannon who’s starting second grade in Sarah Chase’s classroom. They’re both new to New Bedford.
Parkman said she thought the school was “beautiful” and was happy they provided supplies for the students, as Kannon went through a new pencil box in her desk and pulled out notebooks and folders. The campus name, she said, “speaks highly of the school.”