By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Jun 23, 2016 at 12:28 PM

Early last year, the Milwaukee Board of School Directors hired Bay View-based Foundation Architects to design an addition at Fernwood Montessori School, 3239 S. Pennsylvania Ave., also in Bay View.

By last summer, the work on the new 21,566-square foot addition, with eight classrooms, a gym, an entry atrium and more, was underway. In December, I posted a progress report.

Today, I spent a little time with architect Craig Eide and school principal John Sanchez touring the new building, which is expected to be complete by mid-July, with furniture arriving in August, for a Sept. 1 first day of school.

The project – estimated to cost $9.6 million – also includes an elevator, making the 1920s building completely ADA accessible for the first time. Modifications to accommodate the elevator will shrink four classrooms, which will be transformed into other useful spaces (such as special education rooms and the like).

Other work in the existing building will expand the cafeteria – which has traditionally done double duty as a gym, too – move the library, create a community room and turn the former library back into a classroom space to accommodate what Sanchez says will be an enrollment of nearly 750 students (up from about 720 this past year).

A couple of the new classrooms won't be used this first year, but Sanchez says growth at the adolescent level will fill one of the rooms next year and the other the year after. The school, which has been rated by the state as "exceeding expectations" for a number of years, is one of the most sought-after in the district.

Ground was broken earlier this month on a more modest, five-room addition at MPS' Maryland Avenue Montessori School, another school that exceeded expectations on last year's state report card, on the East Side. Work is underway at the site and expected to be completed in time for the start of the 2017-18 academic year.

Here are some photos of the work at Fernwood, taken today...

Cafeteria expansion. New piers will support space created above for a library and community room

The courtyard is a great feature

This space will allow for the creation of a greenhouse to teach botany and science

Fernwood is getting a new gym. Parents raised funds to buy the scoreboard on the wall

This third-grade maple (known as lower el maple in Fernwood lingo ... sorry, Montessori joke) is destined for the gym floor

Two decorative panels removed where the buildings connect have been saved and installed inside near their former locations

Plans posted in the hallways explain the work to the school community. Sanchez says kids have been mostly unfazed by the work, but love to watch the workers during recess

A former impromptu path is getting pavers thanks to funds raised by the school community

Geeks like me may enjoy seeing how the original building's exterior walls were constructed

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.