The Pioneer Academy, with its colorful classrooms, hallways, and lockers, is up and running on Totowa Road.
The 239 sixth through 12th-graders roaming the hallways walk around the new $11 million building, learning on new electronic smartboards. They use their fingerprints to gain access to the cafeteria.
The college-preparatory school relocated to the BAE Systems building on Totowa Road from Clifton and opened in September. The former location, a Roman Catholic elementary school, had one-eighth the space of the current location.
The school offers 16 Advance Placement classes and 22 honors classes. One student learned he was accepted early into Harvard University.
Teachers are able to use the smartboards to show videos, write notes, and make lessons interactive and dynamic. There are three laboratories for physics, biology, and chemistry classes. There is also a classroom for students to work on robotics projects.
“We want to have our students learn how to think critically,” said Principal Sukan Alkin.
The school has a low student-to-teacher ratio of 9:1, lower than Wayne’s three middle and two high schools.
“Because we’re a private school, we’re able to building our curriculum from the ground up,” said Rachel Tafaro, an English teacher. The school does use the new federally-mandated Common Core curriculum standards.
Classrooms are located on the first floor. The school’s 117 resident students live in dorms on the second floor. The third floor is empty. The finishing touches were still being put on rooms, including an auditorium, this week. About half the students come from other countries, including Turkey, and take Turkish language classes.
There are plans to construct athletic fields on the 6.2-acre campus. The project is expected to cost $4 million, Alkin said.
“We have plans to continually grow and make this a better place for our students,” Alkin said.
The move almost didn’t happen. The Town Council approved legislation in February 2012 prohibiting dorms from being built in Wayne except at William Paterson University and St. Joseph’s Wayne Hospital. The school submitted its application before the council adopted the ordinance. The school sued the town and won; the judge issued the ruling in May.
The Planning Board approved the school’s application in May.