The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, December 18, 2009

CCHS Master Plan group seeks more space, eyes indoor track

The architectural firm producing a Facilities Master Plan (FMP) for the Concord-Carlisle High School (CCHS) is recommending a 25% expansion in the size of the school. The firm, the Office of Michael Rosenfeld (OMR), is working with the CCHS Master Planning Committee to consider present and future space needs in preparation for either renovating or replacing the current structure.

On December 9 the committee compared the square footage of the existing building, the proposed OMR plan, the plan produced by the feasibility study done by SMMA in 2005, and Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) guidelines. In addition, the committee discussed new models of how to organize spaces for core curriculum, labs, art, health, athletic programs, student support and the learning commons/library.

OMR has prepared a detailed analysis of the spaces at CCHS and has categorized what program spaces need to be added. The existing high school is 234,000 square feet, while the proposed OMR plan and the 2005 SMMA plan both call for 293,000 square feet. “It’s interesting that what we are proposing today is the same as what SMMA proposed in 2005,” said Jerry Wedge, a member of both the FMP and the Regional School Committee (RSC).

In comparison, the MSBA guideline for a high school of 1,250 students is 231,000 square feet, roughly the present CCHS footprint. OMR Principal-in-charge Whitney Granger explained that the MSBA has space guidelines that address all the major areas in a school, but there may be some play in how the gross square footage is divided between the areas in the school.

RSC and FMP member Louis Salemy summarized the roughly 60,000-square-foot difference between what exists and what the OMR proposed plan calls for, saying about half is for the field house and half is spread across everything else. “One main difference [between the OMR plan and the MSBA guidelines] is the field house which really adds a lot to the square footage,” said Granger. It adds about 39,000 square feet, but roughly 8,000 square feet will be used to replace other athletic teaching stations, making the additional square footage closer to 31,000 square feet. MSBA support for a field house has yet to be determined.

Granger presented a chart comparing square footage in every major department. CCHS has 54,000 square feet for core academics. The proposed OMR plan has 66,000 square feet which would include no new classrooms, but would add five teacher centers and 12 presentation/seminar areas. MSBA guidelines do not include computer labs, foreign language labs or teacher centers. The Special Education area would also increase with the proposed OMR plan. There is currently almost 8,000 square feet and the OMR plan calls for 18,500 square feet. More tutorial spaces would be added. The nurses’ and student support areas would also increase.

The auditorium seats roughly 500 and is 11,700 square feet. The OMR plan calls for seating for 750 and 15,800 in square footage. The MSBA guideline for a 750-seat auditorium is 10,400 square feet. OMR Project Manager Jeanne Roberts explained the 50% difference is because the MSBA does not include any space allowance for the wing area and other support areas associated with an auditorium.

Ideas in 21st century learning

Currently, the high school is divided by department – a hallway of Math, a different hallway for Science, and so forth. Most teaching is done within a specific subject, with limited collaboration between departments. How will high school change in the future? CCHS Principal Peter Badalament presented several concepts that may become central to 21st century learning, including multidisciplinary teaching, more team projects and less learning in isolation. To foster interdisciplinary teaching, the physical layout of departments may need to be merged. “We need to better align how we use our resources; how we use our teachers.”

Badalament suggested that learning clusters or “houses” could be a way to organize the future learning environment. He described the idea of a “Freshman Academy,” which would be made up of teams of 75 students and one teacher from each academic area – Science, Math, English, Social Studies and foreign language, similar to a middle school. Students would work on interdisciplinary projects. Foreign language teachers would concentrate on culture, real dialogue and how we relate to people of that culture. “They would develop all those skills we say we want for our kids,” said Badalament. (See also “Where freshmen stand alone,” Boston Globe, December 15.)

Superintendent Diana Rigby said, “The reality is the job of teachers is changing and it’s changing significantly because of a technology revolution. We need to have a conversation with the faculty. The faculty needs to decide what they need to do differently. We’ll work with them together.”

Granger presented an organizational model for a 21st century school. The term “learning commons” is used to reflect the changing role of the school library, where a learning commons not only has space for an individual to study, but also has areas for small groups working on projects, technology for multi-media and social meeting space. Imagine a learning commons at the center of a school, a place to find information, a place for people to meet and eat also. This is the hub. Around it, connected to it, are smaller hubs.

One smaller hub contains the main office, administration, nurses’ office, Special Education and guidance. Another hub is for performing arts, which includes areas for choral, band and orchestra groups. An “art” hub has spaces for sculpture, photography, digital art and ceramics. The radio and TV stations would also connect to the learning commons. Several hubs would be for learning, such as the Freshman Academy. The Freshman Academy might be viewed as a circle of classrooms clustered around an area where large and small groups could work together. The classrooms for English, Social Studies and foreign language sit side by side. There was discussion that Science labs should be placed together to be cost efficient since they need special plumbing and fume hoods.

Athletics and a field house

The architect presented several ideas for a field house. Generally, the concept was to have an indoor track with the area in the center of the track to be used for three basketball courts or a variety of tennis and volleyball courts. Lockers and a team room would be next to the track and there would be a performance gym with a wooden floor that seats 800. The track would be 180 yards. It would not be used for competition because it would need to be 200 meters for that.

Salemy was in favor of making the track long enough to be used for competitive track meets. FMP member and Physics teacher Brian Miller strongly supported Salemy’s thoughts, adding that it would be better than driving to the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center in Boston, which is where the indoor track events are held now. He said there was a lot of interest in having an indoor track.

Discussion ranged from making a competition-level track that would be a revenue generator to a separate business. Others wanted to see that the track would be used constantly and worried whether there would be enough public support without state funding. The architects will look into what it would take to make the field house track into one suitable for use in competition.

At their meeting scheduled for December 16 (after the Mosquito goes to press), the CCHS Master Plan Committee is expected to discuss how best to proceed. ∆


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