TAMPA — Since launching a $50 million capital campaign in 2008, Berkeley Preparatory School has built a new field house, dining hall and baseball and softball complex.
Now, plans are in the works to build a 75,000-square-foot arts and sciences center that will feature classrooms equipped with the latest technology, college-level laboratories and performance studios, as well as an art gallery, study areas, a recital hall and meeting spaces.
Students in middle and high school will attend science and art classes there, and teachers of those subjects will be able to collaborate more with each other.
“The opportunities to create and provide innovative curriculum and engaging programming will be nearly limitless,” Headmaster Joseph Seivold wrote in an email. “This will be an extraordinary building.”
Having the center will allow the school to expand its robotics program, begin offering a Design Technology course and offer more summer programs.
Last week, the school came one step closer to making that plan a reality, thanks to hefty donations from two local businessmen.
Bob Gries Jr., founding member and managing director of Gries Investment Funds, donated $4 million to the project, which will bear his name as the Gries Center for Arts and Sciences. Gries is also the former owner of the Tampa Bay Storm. His ninth-grade daughter attends the school, but Gries said that is not why he made the donation.
“There’s no way we can invest enough in our children, because they’re going to be the leaders of the community,” he said. “It’s not just the state-of-the-art technology, but it’s really giving the teachers all of the tools to be able to fulfill their potential in teaching young men and women today. This is going to allow them to operate in a college-like fashion.”
Dan Doyle Jr., co-founder, president and chief executive officer of Dex Imaging Inc., also gave a significant donation to the school. Berkeley spokesman Jeremy Canody said Doyle wants to keep the amount of his contribution private.
Berkeley opened in 1961 as a private school serving 140 students in grades seven through 12 at the parish house of Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church in downtown Tampa. As it grew, the school moved to its second home, the former Biscayne Hotel on Davis Islands.
Today, Berkeley serves more than 1,300 students in prekindergarten through 12th grade on its campus at 4811 Kelly Road in Town ‘N Country.
Canody said a groundbreaking date will be announced soon and school officials aim to have the center up and running by fall 2015. The school is in the bidding process now.
Nicole Ackerson, chairwoman of the school’s science department, said the building will provide much-needed space, a good way for teachers to show students how science and art can relate to each other, and an emphasis on STEM subjects — science, technology, engineering and math.
It will also allow the younger grades to move into current science labs as the older students transition to the new building.
“If we do our jobs right, the kids will be employing all the disciplines without even knowing,” she said. “Art and science are on two sides of the same coin. One does not exist without the other, so the collaboration between the two is necessary for children to attack problems with 21st-century thinking.”