Rapoport Academy soon will begin renovations on a remnant of the old Paul Quinn College campus to convert it into space for high school students.
The Gomez Administration Building, built in 1952, originally housed classrooms and offices for the college, a historically black school located in Waco for more than 100 years until it moved to Dallas in 1990.
The building will undergo a $3 million renovation next month to make room for more Rapoport Academy high school students.
The local charter school focuses on college readiness, especially in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.
Superintendent Matthew Polk and Chief Operating Officer Alexis Neumann walked through the dark building Tuesday afternoon, stepping carefully over debris that has accumulated as it sat vacant for more than 20 years.
But where some would see dilapidation, they see a rich history and potential for the future.
“We’ve been talking to kids about what it meant to be here (when it was Paul Quinn College) and what it still means today to come here and get an education,” Neumann said.
The $3 million renovation will add 17 classrooms, a music facility, technology labs and offices to Rapoport’s campus. The renovation also includes construction of a 7,000-square-foot addition to the building.
When completed, the building will allow for the enrollment of about 150 additional high school students, doubling total high school enrollment to 300.
Polk said the expansion is coming at just the right time, as students in the larger middle school classes want to continue at the academy for their high school studies.
Since the building is significant to Waco’s history, Rapoport officials hope to preserve the structure’s aesthetics.
They plan to save a mural of three tigers, Paul Quinn College’s mascot, that are painted in the stairwell of the building.
“We want to save as much, visually and architecturally, as possible, down to the panes in the windows,” Polk said.
The renovation will be funded partly through $450,000 in Tax Increment Financing Zone funds, pending final approval from Waco City Council at its Tuesday meeting.
The rest of the money will come from a bank loan and donations, though Rapoport officials hope to secure more donors.
“It won’t be ornate or super fancy, but it will be functional,” Neumann said. “There will be a simple facade, clean lines and a respect for the history of the layout.”
The Gomez Administration Building is the last of five Quinn campus structures to undergo renovation.
“It’s the end of a long journey and will create stability in terms of enrollment,” Polk said.