Gateway Center Opens to Rave Reviews from Middle School Students

Monday, May 8, represented an historic milestone for Durham Academy’s Middle School — marking years of planning, input, construction and fundraising that supported the Gateway Center becoming a reality. Middle School faculty and staff hustled to pack up their classrooms and relocate within a 72-hour window to minimize disruption of instruction before the end of the school year.

“What a huge day!” said Middle School Director Jon Meredith in an email to faculty and staff. “Big thanks to everyone who moved, unpacked boxes, settled in and put up with plenty of chaos!”

Thanks to their efforts and the hard work of volunteers, Gateway Center opened for classes on that Monday to appreciative oohs and ahhs from wide-eyed students. While some finishing touches are still underway, that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of Gateway’s newest residents.

“Here, there’s so many different colors, there’s even a rainbow wall, and it’s like the AWL [Arts & World Languages Center] 2.0 plus-plus,” said Liam Saraiva ’30. “I can’t believe they built this within the time that they had. That was absolutely insane.”

Site preparation and construction began in summer 2021, and students have enjoyed seeing the facility come to life before their eyes in the months since. The Gateway Center will officially be dedicated on Friday afternoon before an audience of appreciative teachers and students.

“The building is amazing, there’s so many things to explore,” said Garrett Salama ’30. “It’s way better. I never expected anything this crazy.”

At 48,000 square feet, Gateway represents the largest building on any DA campus — supporting science, math and history, with 14 state-of-the-art classrooms and labs, a makerspace, Middle School administration, student services and a variety of gathering spaces for collaboration. This marks the first time that all grade levels of history, math and science will be housed together. 

“It’s exciting,” said Virginia Hall ’91, who has spent more than two decades on the Middle School campus as a history teacher and spent half of her years as a DA student on the Academy Road campus. “I had nothing on the board and someone said how do you spell possibility, and so I wrote it on the board, and that’s the only word that’s sitting on the board right now. And it just made me think that’s so perfect for how we are walking into this new building.”

The Gateway Center also welcomes visitors to the Middle School as the campus’ new front door. In summer 2024, construction will take place to reorient the entrance to the Middle School from University Drive. This summer, construction will focus on the creation of a quad, with demolition of the 300 and 400 buildings to help create a true center of campus.

Gateway Center represents the first phase of Beyond the Threshold  that was fully funded through philanthropic gifts. Beyond the Threshold supports the last stage of a 30-year master plan for DA’s campuses that started with the Preschool/Lower School campus in 2002, and over the years has included the Upper School’s Learning Commons and Kirby Gym, the new Upper School STEM & Humanities Center and K Family Commons (2019), the Middle School Arts & World Languages Center (2021), Gateway Center (2023) and eventually a new Middle School gym and expanded Extended Day facilities.

Many thanks to Cannon Architects, CT Wilson Construction, the Board of Trustees’ Buildings & Grounds Committee, the time and energy invested by DA faculty and staff in dreaming up these new spaces, and the many generous donors who have supported the Beyond the Threshold campaign!