Douglas Anderson School of the Arts is celebrating a $13 million overhaul project that will add a new, two-story building that will include new classrooms, science labs, a cafeteria and an amphitheater.
DA is known for its music program, bands, theater and other arts. Students from all over apply to the competitive school.
At a groundbreaking ceremony Thursday morning, students said they were looking forward to the expansion, adding that it's long overdue.
"We've had, I don't know, 13 portables," senior Amber Douglas said. "You're like sprinting to class in the rain and it's kind of stressful, and with the new building, everything is going to be new and exciting."
Douglas is one of the 1,200 talented students at the school celebrating the expansion.
Construction is underway to build 20 new academic classrooms, including four state-of-the-art science labs.
Also being built is a 500-seat amphitheater, specialized classrooms for the musical track, a lighting and costume classroom and shop, a visual arts metals studio for welding and sculpting, expanded gardens, a new 20,000-square-foot cafeteria replacing the one built in the 1950s, and a covered drop-off/pickup area for parents.
Duval County superintendent Nikolai Vitti said his goal since he arrived in Jacksonville has been to back the arts programs.
"It started with a music and art teacher in every elementary school," Vitti said. "That's over 100 schools and over 200 teachers putting or re-establishing an art program in every middle and high school."
U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw was also at the groundbreaking to tour the campus, originally built in 1922 as South Jacksonville School #107, the only primary public school on the Southside of Jacksonville for African-American children. It reopened as an magnet school of the arts in 1985.
"We are lucky in northeast Florida to have a school like DA that just does such a great job at educating kids, and they can go from here and do pretty much anything they want to do," Crenshaw said.
DA has claimed more than 360 national awards since 1992, and with its new upgrades, it is hoping to add more to the list.