ASTON — It was eight years in the making, but the Delaware County Intermediate Unit finally dedicated an expanded education center at its Aston campus Wednesday afternoon.
DCIU leaders, board members and other officials cut the ribbon on the center that doubled its existing campus to house early childhood education, career and technical education and special education programs at the campus. The $50.2 million construction project doubled the campus square feet from 60,000 to 120,000 and bumped the number of classrooms from 12 to 44.
The construction include two new wings of classrooms, therapeutic rooms, conference and meeting space, a new gymnasium, playgrounds and upgraded, state-of-the-art career and technical education labs and classrooms.
Approximately 550 career and technical education student, 100 special education students and 232 Head Start and early childhood intervention students will be house at the center this year.
With the expanded education space, current programs will still be attained at its various sites throughout the county.
In a rough timeline provided by DCIU Executive Director Maria Edelberg, Ed.D., in her ceremonial opening comments, the board at the time in 2011 decided to do a comprehensive facilities plan, given board approval to move forward in March 2013. Part of that plan was to find adequate space for programs, which happened to be at the Aston campus.
"The concept was a multi-campus that had early childhood education, special education, and career technical school all on one campus," said Edelberg. "The real goal was we wanted to better serve all of our children here in Delaware County."
This Aston project was approved in June 2013 by the DCIU board with a building construction cost not to exceed $44 million.
What followed were years of sometimes contentious meetings with Aston residents as the plan went through the planning phases and some legal fights. Edelberg called it a Christmas miracle when in December 2016 an agreement was made with Aston to let the project continue.
Ground broke in June 2017, “three years after we anticipated breaking ground,” noted Edelberg . After construction started a lawsuit was filed by an Aston electrician saying a Guaranteed Energy Savings Act contract was illegal. The Commonwealth Court eventually settled the matter in favor of the DCIU.
Finally, an official permit of occupancy for the new complex was awarded on Aug. 26, 2019.
In total, she said 39 board members “touched” this project as the plan went through over the years.
“Your strength, fortitude and steadfast commitment to this project was extraordinary,” said Edlberg to board members past and present who were associated with the long project’s long timeline. “No matter what curveball was thrown your way, you tackled it with grace, strength, moved this project forward strategically and, can I say, highly successfully.”
“DCIU is so fortunate to have, and have had, such dedicated individuals whose wisdom, gumption, leadership brought this project into a reality,” added Edelberg. “I think of the words perseverance, courage and hard work: that’s what you guys did every single time we made a decision around this project.
“Because of your leadership our children of Delaware County have a great facility.”
DCIU Board President Edward Cardow, of the Chichester School Board, joked in his speech that the project was challenging from the start until Thursday’s ceremonial event when he was still writing his speech.
“This is the fifth set (of notes) I have written for this great occasion and the only one that has been approved by our legal team,” he said. “We are here to celebrate the completion of this project after seven-plus years. This facility will carry DICU’s programs well into the future.”