The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 11, 2009

CCHS Master Plan Committee hears from faculty

The Concord-Carlisle High School Master Plan Committee met on August 26 to hear faculty from several departments discuss their space needs. After an evening of listening to the shortcomings of the current facilities, the impact of the building on education was clear to all. Each faculty member spoke of cramped classrooms, lack of workspace and lack of storage space. The burden on teachers to be switching classrooms throughout the day has drawbacks beyond inconvenience.

NEW TEACHERS AT CCHS. Front row, left to right are: Carlisle resident Linda Vice-Hisey (Special Education), Vivian Tam (Chinese), Zandra Kambysellis (English), and Jessica Lutz (Special Educaton School Social Worker). Back row, left to right: CCHS Principal Peter Badalament and current teacher Caitlin Smith (French) stand with Dana Graham (English), Carly Dwyer (Drama) and Hannah Bruno (Health and Fitness). (Photo by Beth Clarke)

Assuming that state reimbursement for school renovation and replacement will be very limited, the Committee is charged to come up with a roadmap for repairing, upgrading and renovating current facilities.

Classroom Shortage

Because of the shortage of classrooms, most teachers at CCHS are changing rooms for every class they teach. This curtails any ability to set-up before a class and it diminishes class time as teachers must take a few minutes at the beginning of class to fire up their laptops and organize for the class. At the end of class, teachers must get themselves, their computers and materials out of the class. It limits conversations with individual students at the end of class as all must vacate the classroom for the next class. “This is a disservice to the students to be pushing them out,” said CCHS English teacher Rebecca Loprete.

Science Department

Problems of space dominate the science department’s frustrations. “First and foremost, our lab classrooms are too small to meet the safety recommendations,” said Science Department Chair Mike Vela. Vela and CCHS physics teacher Brian Miller, also on the Master Plan Committee, strongly recommended that classroom and lab space be together for each science room. The space needs to be larger than what exists today. Both educators agreed that technology enhances the classroom, but takes space. Also, the chemistry and biology teachers need prep rooms with fume hoods and dishwashers. Vela said it would be ideal to have the biology prep room between two biology lab-classrooms, the same for chemistry.

There are two chemistry classrooms and two chemistry labs. Vela said that five teachers rotate through the two labs per week. There is only one double-block per week when labs can be scheduled.

Vela said the number of students taking physics is way up. Students work in labs in groups of four. “It’s not the best.” He would prefer to have more lab area and smaller groups. “The physics teachers can’t leave anything set up in the classroom to be continued the next day,” as there are too many other people using that space in between. In biology, the lab safety standard limits the number of students allowed in a class.

Vela explained that the extreme shortage of science labs dictates the whole school schedule. The lab classes are scheduled first, and then all other classes. The administration tries not to schedule AP Science and BC Calculus at the same time, because many of the students that take one of these classes are likely to be in the other class. But Vela pointed out that there is no way to avoid scheduling conflicts.

Currently, there are 17 science teachers. They can not all fit in the science office area. Vela wants an office/lounge area where all science teachers can eat lunch and meet for discussions. In addition, each sub-department, chemistry, biology and physics, wants a common area for that sub-group to meet and for the teachers’ desks. If a teacher’s desk is in a room used by other teachers, that desk is unavailable to its owner for parts of the day. Each science sub-group also needs storage areas for equipment and supplies.

Vela said the Science Resource Room doubles as a place for teachers’ desks. “The room is tiny. It doesn’t really work as a tutoring space. If one student is taking a make-up test, others feel they can’t talk.”

Another need is a room for interdisciplinary lectures Vela told the committee. The space could be used for MCAS review sessions. Currently, such reviews take place in several classrooms and with several teachers. He would prefer having one central place.

Math Department

CCHS math teacher Anthony Beckwith would like to see a common room for teachers’ desks and a place to meet where they can discuss and solve problems together. With 17 math faculty it is difficult to have meetings or space to collaborate in the current small room. He also wants a area to make sensitive phone calls to parents.

Book storage is another issue. “We need a bigger book room,” said Beckwith, noting the increase of books with the increase of students from 900 to over 1250 over the past 15 years. (See table of CCHS enrollments.) Currently books are dispersed across classrooms and cabinets. A number of book shelves are quite stressed with the weight of the books.

Currently the Math Resource Center and an area for Special Education tutors are in the same room with a six-foot divider. Beckwith wants a separate room for math tutoring. He would also like a room for extra math, or math and science experiments, a place where the two departments can make connections for both faculty and students.

Beckwith told the committee that 10 years ago his classes had access to computer labs, but now it is difficult to get students to computers for math. He commented that there is an explosion of software for math that would be great for students. Beckwith and Miller discussed whether having roughly eight computers in a math room would be sufficient.

Beckwith is very glad to have ActivBoards in each classroom. But because the ActivBoards were retrofitted into the room, they come with a cumbersome cart of electronics. In addition, there are so few electrical outlets that circuit breakers are sometimes triggered due to the demands of computers, printers, microwaves, etc.

The Future of Textbooks

CCHS Principal Badalament told the committee that California was moving towards getting textbooks online with the Open Source Textbook Project. Beckwith agreed that in 10 years, there will probably be no books. He worries about the success of every student getting to the web every night for homework. Badalament noted that Japan has a totally different model. The Japanese government publishes workbooks which are $1.50 each, unlike the U.S., where textbook publishers put out ever-increasingly priced textbooks. Master Plan Committee member John Boynton pointed out that a Kindle, a wireless reading device, may be the way to go. All textbooks might someday be accessed through this hand-held device.

English and Foreign Language

English teacher Loprete reiterated her colleagues’ concerns. She needs more space in classrooms, more workspace and storage space for teachers. The faculty needs a place to have lunch together and the classrooms need more temperature control, as the temperature ranges from 50 to 90 degrees.

Loprete wants a computer for each student. She explained that half of the class time is used for lecture and discussion, while the other half should be used for writing. Students use computers to write. Her model classroom would be to have computers line three sides of the perimeter of the classroom. Students could turn their chairs to the non-computer wall for instruction and face the wall to work on a computer for writing. Currently, the English department uses a mobile cart of laptops but Loprete said the cart is heavy.

Loprete added that she would really like to see a nursery school on site. A number of teachers work part-time because they have small children and there is no daycare center in Concord that opens before 7:30 a.m. Teachers have to be in class before then. Superintendent Diana Rigby pointed out that there are many requirements and it is very expensive to put in daycare facilities.

CCHS Foreign Language teacher Iolanda Volpe said she had all the same concerns as her colleagues. She spoke to the committee about the Foreign Language Lab which has 60 computers, set up as two groups of 30 computers to be used for two classes at a time. As for the lab, Volpe said, “I love it. I use it constantly.” Volpe explained that on any given day, a few of the computers are not working. She asked that a few more computers be added so there are always enough working for classes, and for a few students who are there for tutoring and make-ups in the listening lab.

The ideal workspace

The committee and the teachers discussed ideal workspace. Teachers who stay within their classroom are isolated. Teachers would like to be together to collaborate. It is easier for students to find teachers in classrooms. Rigby described a circular model where the departmental teachers’ room is in the center of a hub of classrooms. Beckwith said that he was not asking for individual classrooms for each teacher. Loprete said by rotating classrooms all the time, teachers have no sense of ownership at all. “Some teachers really miss this.” She explained when student enrollment was 900, teachers had their own rooms. Some teachers feel exhausted by moving each period.

A view into a new library space

CCHS Librarian Robin Cicchetti told the committee that school libraries will be migrating from a quiet place to one of ‘learning commons.’ “Their hallmark will be flexibility.” She explained that learning commons have a place where students and faculty can come to work together. “It will be a creative lab, in a sense.” Libraries will need global communications, a place for professional development and “neutral territory” for students and teachers. Cicchetti said the keywords to describe the new space would be “collaborative, global and creative.” It will be louder. “Also, there’s a growing sector of students who need online services to facilitate learning.”

Cicchetti suggested the new space would need to accommodate small group work, meetings and performances. The technology will be “beefy,” as the learning commons will have a place for media production with facilitates downloads and heavy bandwidth. There will be need for secure storage of camera, external drives, laptops, etc. It will be a place to teach about information, data bases, technology and diverse digital formats. It will be a global communication center, a social and engaging place, place where students can take courses online from all over the world. “It’s really, really exciting,” said Cicchetti. ∆


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