Before touring the new classroom block, we chat to Ms Verma and Mr Scarcelli about life at Dubai Scholars in 2021, and how and why the plans for the new facilities came about. This is a school that remains very much a family affair and at one point in our conversation Ms Verma pauses and says “You know Dubai Scholars, it’s always been a place that is just infused with love. Even this past year hasn’t been able to change that”.
With the school’s atmosphere captured succinctly in that statement. Mr Scarcelli began to explain the thinking behind the build was as much about creating facilities and space throughout the school as it is about adding extra student capacity.
“We started this project with a mindset of creating new opportunities. For example, our existing labs were fine, but we wanted new labs that would allow us to do more. What will happen when we can use the three new labs, is that the primary school will retain the current labs and in secondary we will have a new lab for each of physics, biology and chemistry.
The space will also allow us to create new pathways for our students. After surveying our students, we found Media Studies to be a very popular course, and now we’ll now have space to offer it”. Frank Scarcelli, Principal Dubai Scholars Private School
We access the building site from a side entrance. The building contractors here are Skada Construction LLC and the consultants Model Engineering. Ms Verma, CEO of Scholars International Group (the group also owns and operates Clarion School and Scholars International Academy in Sharjah) is no stranger to school builds, tells us that both have been a pleasure to deal with, making this project a thoroughly enjoyable one for her. As we approach the building site, she points out new solar panels above the existing school car park. “When we had to close the school last year, it was so sad but it also gave us time to get in and do things we had wanted to for some time. I like to think we used the time wisely!”.
The new classroom block will stand ground plus three floors. At the time of our visit, every floor of the building is in place and the team plan to apply for official building completion in June.
We enter via what will be one of the labs and find a building that is simple in design. The three science labs will sit on the ground floor, and each additional floor will hold three classrooms plus storage space and washrooms in the same layout. The adjacent corridors will be bright and light with large windows allowing a view of some nearby trees and greenery. Although there will be a lift serving each floor, the energetic Ms Verma tells us that it will only be open to students and staff who really need it. For the rest “…stairs are some of the most important exercise you can do! Keep moving is what I say!”.
Reflecting on the building design, Ms Verma was keen to point out that the decision to build ‘up rather than out’ was a purposeful one.
“Only 30% of this campus is built up. The remaining 70% is given over to gardens and green space.
I believe this is so important!
Many of our students live nearby in apartment buildings…and I want them to come to school and be active. This thinking made it logical that we would go up, and of course that in turn made it clear that it would be a great space for our oldest students.
Eventually, we hope that the new block will even have a rooftop garden. But our younger children will benefit too. As well as them keeping the existing labs, we are currently refurbishing our auditorium with new flooring and new acoustics.
Anyone who has seen a Dubai Scholars performance will tell you that our kids will blow you away! We want to make sure that passion for performing arts continues”.
Not only will the new building create labs and more space, it will give them oldest students a sixth form study ‘hub’, something they haven’t had before (“I’ve already bought the beanbags and cushions!” said Ms Verma). Again though, she was keen to stress that that the investment would enhance facilities for every child, throughout the school.
“While everyone else is holding back, we are spending…I know it seems a bit crazy! But we have such confidence in this school. Every year we have families who try to register and for whom it doesn’t work out. We want to be able to bring those families in and we want to be able to better support the families already in our community. For example, we’ve noticed that so many of our families now have two working parents, so we’ll be starting ‘wrap around’ care, an extended day programme until 6pm each day. Again, this is something that the new space will facilitate”.
Outside of the new building is a large area of open space will be a new sports facility, either a multi-purpose court or a pitch…decision on this TBC! Both Mr Scarcelli and Ms Verma are delighted that this will mean the school will now be able to offer extra-curricular activities, again something which previous space constraints have made impossible.
“We have said that any free space at all, we are going to turn into a sports facility,” said Ms Verma. “I grew up in Dubai and I miss the days of people being a member of a club, somewhere you can go and just be with all your friends and do some sport. With our new ECA programme, I want to recreate that club feeling, bring in that community feel…let parents have a yoga class with their friends while their kid does football or tennis. We are so excited about that”.
The school’s new facilities represent just one part of two phases of construction. The next, on a plot adjacent to the new building, is still to be planned but will continue on the theme of adding pathways and facilities, not just new students.