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Belle Glade
Rosenwald School project continues forward march

If he wanted to, in a few weeks Javin Walker will be one of the very few to say he finally lived out a childhood fantasy: to tear down his elementary school – and get paid for it.

However, for Walker the demolition comes decades after he attended school there, and long after the novelty of watching the halls of his former academic keep crumble has dissipated.

Instead, the older and wiser Walker chooses to remember his school in more nostalgic terms.

“Growing up it was the only school I knew of at that time. It was the best thing since sliced bread, as far as I was concerned,” he said. “I can remember the days of leaving the halls and walking home to school, stopping at the store and picking up candy before going home.”

Walker’s 2 SBW general contracting company is one of a group of companies working on the Rosenwald modernization project in South Bay, the city Walker proudly hails as his hometown. The project represents a $12.5-plus million investment by the school district in the Glades area.

The construction project replaces the 60-year-old building with an all-new 40,776 square foot school designed by Song + Associates, and overseen by Suffolk Construction, with local construction by 2 SBW and Cooper Construction.

While initially the project was scheduled to be completed in the summer of 2014, that timeline is not etched in stone, with final approval on the budget – contractors said the project required another $200,000 dollars – by the school district looming.

In the course of the next few months, the project will begin with phase 1 of the project, which includes the demolition, demucking and infrastructure work required before the new building can be erected.

One of the possible benefits of working with a local contractor such as 2 SBW is in reaching out to the local community to recruit jobs that may become necessary as the construction phase progresses.

But challenges do remain. Are there enough potential workers and local businesses that are qualified to begin work on the project today? Perhaps not, said Mr. Walker, and that is where a community outreach got its start. Already, the contractors on the project are reaching out to the community, including holding sessions with local vendors to certify them to do business with the school district.

“By me being a part of the team that was chosen, not only do you give a chance for a young construction company to grow, you leave some of your revenue here in the community,” said Mr. Walker. “Before, most of the revenue from a construction standpoint has left this community.”

The sessions are also aimed at keeping the community informed on the progress of the project. Before the school district announced its plans to modernize the school, many community members took to school board meetings to voice their concerns with the former antiquated facility, and to urge the district to build a new school.

Rosenwald Elementary is operating out of Pioneer Park Elementary until the construction project is finished.

Mr. Walker said his small company is grateful for the opportunity to work on the project. The announcement of his company’s involvement in the project is perhaps the most visible demonstration of the desire to involve more local people from the economically depressed region.

“It’s been a great partnership with Suffolk,” said Mr. Walker “It’s been a humbling experience from our small contractor situation, but it has also been a great growth spurt for us because we’ve been able to learn how prime contractors do business.”

So maybe he won’t admit to keeping any particularly strict teacher in mind as he prepares to help in the demolition, but he does not hide the fact that he is excited.

He pauses, “it’s kind of a dream come true.”