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LYNN — Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) Academy Charter School opened its new campus at the historic J.B. Blood Building on Wheeler Street Friday with a ribbon-cutting.
Caleb Dolan, the school’s executive director, said the journey to expand began when the grade 5-12 middle and high school ran out of space at its High Rock Street location. It was clear the older students needed their own building, he added.
Under the new KIPP model, Grades K through 8 will occupy the High Rock campus and the high school will move to Wheeler Street.
The 91-year-old Blood Building was sold to KIPP last year by the Economic Development Industrial Corp., the city’s development bank, for $3.5 million.
The facility features 30 new classrooms, including science labs, special education, art, music and dance rooms, and a cafeteria.
Today, 330 students are enrolled in the high school.
Completion of the KIPP project adds another element to the planned Lynn Education District in downtown. It is centered around the charter school, St. Mary’s High School, Lynn Vocational Technical Institute, and the YMCA, which is also undergoing expansion.
The ceremony was organized by the KIPP student council, Dolan said. Students Amya Liburd and Marianna Barry served as emcees. On hand for the celebration were Mayor Thomas M. McGee, Sen. Brendan Crighton (D-Lynn), Massachusetts Education Secretary James Payser and fourth-grade student Gabriel Lugo, who delivered the opening speech he wrote himself, Dolan said.
While the school community celebrated the completion of the building, Dolan warned that buildings alone don’t make great schools. It was a sentiment echoed by Peyser, a KIPP graduate.
“A building is only as important as what goes on inside,” he said.
Assistant principal Shauna-Kaye Clarke said the opening of the new high school is an important step in the institution’s evolution.
“Our high school kids have never had a space for themselves,” she said. “Now they do. Now, we have a complete high school feeling, especially for freshmen who enter the school. That’s important.”
Also, she said, eighth graders on High Rock Street will get the chance to be leaders in that building. So far, she said, the reaction has been positive.
“The kids love it,” she said. “I think you can already see the behavior change just since we’ve started.
Dolan said the addition of the new building to KIPP’s presence in the city is a powerful development.
“We are now situated in the middle of a group of schools that includes Tech, St. Mary’s, plus the new Y,” he said. “This opens up a lot of avenues for our students.”