Friday, March 25, 2005
The debate continues: CCHS renovation vs. rebuilding
The Concord-Carlisle High School building is limiting what courses can be offered and how those courses are taught. As Superintendent Brenda Finn states, "[Academic] programs should drive the facility, not the other way around." The Feasibility Study Committee continues to debate whether renovating the high school buildings or constructing a whole new school is the better plan.
Too little space
Architectural consultants from SMMA have been documenting the square footage used by each department at CCHS, and projecting the square footage required by the state for new construction as the school population grows to an estimated 1,350 students. Every department is lacking thousands of square feet. For example, the Math department, which currently has over 30 students in some classes, needs almost another 5,000 square feet. The extra space would be divided between more classrooms, a resource room, a teacher work room, some storage space and a small conference room.
In the present building, classrooms are about 790 square feet. In a new building, the average classroom would be roughly 850 square feet, based on state space allocations. The present building is roughly 235,000 square feet. An estimate of what is needed is about 280,000 square feet. This is not a firm estimate as the larger spaces in a school, such as the auditorium and the gymnasium, have not been nailed down in terms of requirements.
SMMA has also compared the curriculum offered at CCHS to other high schools. Other schools, such as Swampscott and Beverly, offer more course selections than CCHS in English, social studies and science. Principal Art Dulong said the curriculum at CCHS is "thorough, not broad." Alex Pitkin, a SMMA consultant said, "You will need more classrooms if you add more course offerings."
Current spaces need re-work
If the curriculum at CCHS were to be expanded, different spaces may be needed. If a new high school is going to be built, it would be prudent to capture future needs now and incorporate them in a new design. CCHS choral director Chuck Brown said, "The 'Little Theater' is a misnomer. It's not appropriate for theater and it's not appropriate for a larger class. The lighting, sound and seating are not correct." Dulong added, "It can be used for lots of things, but has deficiencies for each use." Brown would like to see a small, black-walled theater, called a black box, and dressing rooms for an expanded drama program. Other optional spaces being considered are a classroom for television editing and a student center.
A field house?
In discussing other optional space, the committee went into a lengthy exchange on the virtues of a field house. Currently, CCHS has two 9.000-square-foot gymnasiums. Each is small by today's standards. The state requirement for a gym is 12,000 square feet. There is no easy way to expand either gym to 12,000 square feet. Dulong said, "There's a need in this school and this community for a sizable field house." He spoke about the many advantages to having a field house. "Right now, there are six basketball teams. Due to the lack of space, they cannot practice concurrently, so some teams are practicing until 8:30 at night. If we had a field house, more teams could practice concurrently and the community could use the field house after 6 p.m." A field house generally has an indoor track, tennis courts, basketball courts and substantial seating for big events, such as graduation. Dulong stated, "This community doesn't know what they are missing because they never had it." He added that next year they plan to add an indoor track team for girls and boys. They are looking into renting space at the local armory for this team.
There are shortcomings with the current facility. The two 9,000-square-foot gyms will never become a singular 18,000 square-foot-gym, which would have more flexibility of use. The auditorium cannot be enlarged.
SMMA consultant Phil Poinelli tried to verbalize the choices between renovation and a new design. Although the students get by with the smaller classrooms, they often cramped. With a renovation, space can not necessarily be added where it is needed. Each classroom will not get added footage. Dulong states, "We want two classrooms near the gym, to accommodate the health portion of the fitness program. If the classrooms were close by, they would be used more often." Presently, the nearest classrooms open to the gym teachers are on the opposite side of the school.
Regional School Committee member Michael Fitzgerald remarked, "We can make what we have work, but is that really what we want at the end of the day?" The committee continues to evaluate the choices of fitting academic programs to the building or solving problems with a new building.
© 2005 The