Public meeting covers the beginning stages of high school expansion
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Parents and faculty gathered in the black box to discuss the process and plans for expanding the high school on Thursday, Jan. 12. This was one in a long series of meetings that have been held surrounding the issue of space in the high school.
Superintendent Andrew Bott and Headmaster Anthony Meyer gave presentations surrounding not only the physical needs and plans for the future of the high school, but also the social and academic changes that they hope to implement for the new school.
According to Bott, he often receives questions about why the expansion is truly necessary, especially from past alumni.
“We get the question, ‘when I was enrolled at BHS there was 2200 students and this building worked just fine so why is there not enough room?’” Bott said. “There are a number of reasons for that. One is that class sizes are significantly smaller now than they were 30 to 40 years ago. They are smaller for a number of specific reasons: the expansion of support services, program improvement as we improve our offerings and federal and state regulations around special education programs, supports for english language learners and programs for students with disabilities.”
Bott said there are many immediate consequences if the high school does not expand, one that will directly affect students ability to learn.
“ If we don’t expand BHS the impact is on our class size, we currently have a class size of 21.5 students and that would increase to an average of 27.5. The science labs become critically unsafe because you have too many students engaging in experiments and core spaces become inadequate,” Bott said.
According to Meyers, they are also keeping in mind the core values of the high school when designing the new building. Some of these values include having a lot of support for students both academically and emotionally and safety.
“Our building should represent our beliefs and help foster what we want to have students be able to do. We are going to have a big school most likely and it’s really important that we retain a small school feel,” said Meyer. “If relationships are foundations then we need to think about the ways in which we are building havens for kids, so big school small school feel.”
Meyer said one of their main focuses is to create a building with lots of core spaces and classrooms for collaborative learning.
“We want spaces where we can imagine a class can work on its own then expand so that two or three classes can come together and listen to a poet or share oral history projects, so that flexible learning spaces is key,” Meyer said. “We also want to consider spaces for 21st century learning, we want collaborative spaces, open spaces.”
HMFH Architect Deborah Collins it has been decided that they are going to expand on the current high school, although how is still a working process. Previously there had been discussion of building a separate school on another campus.
“We will be developing different options and alternatives and be reviewing that at different points. The process will continue and be wrapped up mid march and the result of that will be a firm solution that will be documented in a report that will be completed by the end of April.”
According to Bott, they have several resources to help them deal with the overcrowding until the expansion can be completed. One of these is the Old Lincoln building, which after 2018 when the Devotion elementary school is scheduled to be complete, will be available for the high school.
Bott said that although it might seem like they are discussing plans to be made in the future, the is problem is immediate so changes need to start now.
“The key here is we need to start implementing some of this now. We need a facility that can hold 700-800 more students in the coming years and we know what happens if you don’t,” said Bott. “We also know and deeply believe that educational vision is important to start now. Our priority is to look at what are some budgetary decisions that we can make now so that we can begin implementing pieces of the educational plan.”