x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Pupils and parents impressed by 'state-of-the-art' facilities

New school campus in Khalifa City A has 500-seat auditorium, indoor swimming pool, a dance studio, basketball courts, a football field, recording and animation studios and a planetarium with 3D film capabilities.

ABU DHABI // DJ Benson walked into Gems American Academy with a grin yesterday, ready for another term of classes and sports after his winter break in the Seychelles.

It helped that the 14-year-old was coming back to a new campus that he and his classmates have been taught in since October.

"The entrance looks fancy," said DJ, from South Africa. "You could go to a ball here."

Gems American Academy opened in 2007 on Najda Street.

"It was way smaller and everybody was squished," said Indah Puspitasari, 12, from Indonesia.

Last year, about 350 students moved to the new building in Khalifa City A, which will eventually hold about 2,300 students.

"Now we have our own space," DJ said. "And we have our own playground," Indah said.

The plan was always to move into a larger facility, according to the school's principal, Ian Deakin.

But completion of the three-storey campus was pushed back to 2011, in part because of the financial crisis. It now has a 500-seat auditorium, an indoor swimming pool, a dance studio, basketball courts, a football field, recording and animation studios and a planetarium with 3D film capabilities.

Gems officials declined to say how much it cost.

The Najda Street building is still used for younger children.

"When it finally happened, it was good," said Thilo Govender, from New Zealand, whose 10-year-old son is in Grade 5. "It's superb. It's certainly state-of-the-art."

The campus was formally opened on December 13. From autumn, it should offer high school classes for the first time.

"It's really an exciting time for us," Mr Deakin said.

Yesterday, many students returned from the three-week break with memories of faraway vacations. Kaitlin Jayendran, 10, visited her family in Sri Lanka.

Gathering with friends as the new term began, she was especially excited about art classes, her favourite subject.

"I'm looking forward to everything because everything is so great here," she said.

vnereim@thenational.ae