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Funding Approved for New Union County Academy for Performing Arts
Public high school will operate in conjunction with Kean University

Elizabeth – The Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders has approved $20 million in funding for a new countywide performing arts high school. In partnership with Kean University, the new Academy for Performing Arts will provide students with career track training in dance, acting, stage management, and stage technology.

“The performing arts are becoming a vital part of Union County’s economic landscape, and the Academy for Performing Arts will provide a wonderful opportunity for young residents to grow into careers that enrich our communities,” said Freeholder Chairman Angel G. Estrada.

“I am proud to welcome the Academy of Performing Arts to our award-winning family of countywide schools,” said Dr. Thomas J. Bistocchi, Superintendent of the Union County Vocational-Technical Schools. “I would like to thank all those who made this partnership with Kean University possible.”

A cooperative arrangement with Kean University will enable students at the Academy to spend their senior year at the Kean campus in Union. The seniors will take a full freshman college course load with a concentration in a performing arts major.

“We are very excited to partner with Union County to provide students with a challenging academic environment as they hone their creative skills to professional standards,” said Dr. Dawood Farahi, president of Kean University.

Of the $20 million in funding, $15 million is slated for the construction of a new 42,000 square-foot high school facility on the campus of the Union County Vocational-Technical School District. The campus is located at 1776 Raritan Road in Scotch Plains.

Sited at the campus entrance, the new building will be a strong community presence on Raritan Road. The lobby, visible to passersby, will feature translucent glass that highlights color and movement.

The lobby will also interact with an exterior courtyard that includes a stage for outdoor performances and classes, and a low berm for casual seating. The outdoor space can also be used for pre-event gatherings and other activities.

The new facility will include classrooms and offices, a 4,000 square-foot theater, a large performance studio, dressing and changing rooms, and storage for costumes and sets.

The theater is being built in the “black box” style, a plain space with unadorned walls. This design has proven to be extremely versatile and economical since first popularized by experimental theater groups in the 1960’s and 1970’s.

Construction is expected to begin in September 2008 and be completed in December 2009.

The remaining $5 million will be used for enhanced classroom space at Kean University. Seniors who are spending their freshman year at Kean will also use the university’s studio space, theater, and other performing arts resources.

Admission to the Performing Arts Academy is based on academic excellence and performance in an audition. The school will open in September 2008 with a freshman class of 55 students. While the new facility is under construction, the students will use classrooms, studio space, and the auditorium at the Academy for Allied Health Sciences.

Additional classes will be added in each of three following years until the school reaches its planned capacity of approximately 200 students in grades 9-12.

Since 1997, Union County has opened three other highly regarded high schools. These are The Academy for Allied Health Sciences, The Academy for Information Technology, and The Magnet High School for engineering, mathematics and science.

For more information about Union County Vocational-Technical Schools, visit