Expansion Committee envisions a unified campus


Tree Demb

In 2021 students could walk along Tappan St. to the new Cypress St. building. This image is a blend of Google Maps and the preliminary expansion plan by William Rawn and Associates.

On the first day of school in 2021, students will arrive at a new high school campus if all goes according to a current proposal.

The high school expansion design calls for a new freestanding building on the 111 Cypress St. property, and the current main building would be renovated to include state-of-the-art science classrooms.

The most recent plan from the Brookline High School Expansion Committee proposes a campus that would support an estimated 2,700 students in 2023. According to the Brookline High School Expansion and Renovation Process Educational Plan 2017 draft, the Committee wants a big school with a small feel.

“The campus will have a lot more buildings, a lot more physical space on that footprint, making sure that it continues to be a really unified high school for students of grades nine through 12,” Superintendent of Schools Andrew Bott said. “We have a great school now, we will have a great school through construction, and we will have a great school when the project’s done.”

If the plan is accepted, Brookline will take 111 Cypress St. by eminent domain, according to school committee member and co-chair of the High School Expansion Building Committee Susan Wolf Ditkoff. The freestanding building will be used primarily for freshman classes.

The newly constructed Cypress St. building, according to earlier drafts of the proposal, is labeled a “9th Grade Academic Building.” However, the most recent presentation of the proposal, provided by Project Manager Ray Masak, labels the building as the “Cypress Building.”

“It’s not a freshman-only building, but it will house most of the ninth graders,” Assistant Headmaster Harold Mason said. “We would not call it a ninth grade building, as it’s not just going to be a ninth grade building. Most of the ninth graders will spend their day there, but they will also come onto campus for some of their classes and some upperclassmen will go to [the Cypress Street] building for some of their classes.”

The most current drafts of the high school expansion outline a plan to propose a new building on 111 Cypress St. and a new STEM wing. PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY SASCHA WOLF-SOROKIN/SAGAMORE STAFF

The Director’s Circle on Tappan Street and the Roberts Wing will be taken down and reconstructed into a new three-floor science, technology engineering and math wing connected to the main building. The STEM wing will have collaborative learning spaces with a Small Group Room, a Learning Commons and classrooms with flexible walls. These science classrooms will allow for lectures and labs in the same place.

“We would imagine state-of-the-art science facilities,” Headmaster Anthony Meyer said. “There are several undersized science classes currently where you can’t run a full lab. [We’re] getting feedback from our current science teachers about how they use their classes, how do they teach science?”

Small renovations will also be made to the currents building such as new windows, roof restoration, and projects at Tappan Gym, the Unified Art Building, Cypress Park Field and the playground.

“The hope is that we create something that really makes a campus work,” Mason said. “That would include connecting this new building to the campus so everything feels like it’s one campus. One of the great things about this is you have all these buildings, you walk back and forth, but everything feels naturally like part of a campus.”

Wolf Ditkoff stressed the importance of student life in a unified campus that connects the Greenough Street, Tappan Street and Cypress Street properties.

“There were a lot of academic, cultural and social reasons to remain one campus,” Wolf Ditkoff said. “There are some questions of how you keep a small school feel and make sure that students can find their pathway, their approach, their tribe within a large campus environment. The educators and the school committee are focused on the student experience of having a small school feel with the advantages a big school offers.”

The hope is that we create something that really makes a campus work.”

— Hal Mason

The architectural firm William Rawn Associates is creating a schematic design of the new unified campus. The architects, according to Bott, talked with students to see what they would like in the school.

“The architects said that the best part of the first three days at Brookline High and in many ways the most powerful part of the time was the time they spend with students — taking tours with students, seeing the parts of the building that students use and are drawn towards. How, as students are in the building, the building comes to life. Students are really a key part of this process,” Bott said.

Meyer said there is a need for student and faculty input about the high school renovations.

“It’s very important that those who work in the school and with the schools and lead the schools be deeply involved in how we change or expand our building,” Meyer said. “Our job is about listening and hearing the good ideas that come up that best benefit students and thinking carefully with our colleagues and with parents and with students about how we can best support learning and teaching at Brookline High school.”

For Wolf Ditkoff, as a school committee member and parent, they are re-building the school to improve the education of the students.

“It was just very important to preserve the best of Brookline High and with growth make sure we are as innovative and creative as possible about the experience for student and the quality of the educational experience,” Wolf Ditkoff said. “I would love it if it is a place where students want to come and feel like their whole self is having a good experience from educationally outstanding to a socially, emotionally supportive environment. First and foremost, I’d start with the student’s experience, and I go to the faculty experience. I want this to be a place where the best  and brightest want to work and build their own careers over time.”

Map data is taken from the Preferred Solution: BHS Campus Expansion . This map shows the possible new additions to the high school when it is expanded, including the addition of a STEM wing to the school and a 9th grade building on Cypress Street. Click on the icons on the map for more information. MAP BY SARAH HUGHES AND SOFIA REYNOSO/SAGAMORE STAFF

In the spring of 2018, the Building Committee will vote on the schematic design. If the current proposal goes forward, there will be a town vote in May 2018, to get funding for the construction. The vote will involve a debt exclusion override, with the total cost of the school expansion amounting to about $149 million, according to the most recent feasibility study cost estimate. The debt exclusion override would require the town to increase property taxes. If the current proposal does not go through, the high school has to find a way to fit all of the incoming students into the main campus, according to Bott.

“It’s ultimately a decision of voters. It’s our job to put forward our best plan and allow voters the choice,” Bott said. “The vision of what makes BHS such a special place and such a great high school is being captured, and we will see that in the plans put forward.”

Bott wants to make the high school a place that will support learning for everyone.

“The goal is to accept everybody who shows up. There’s no turning people away from BHS. It’s making sure that we have all of the spaces — the classroom spaces, the small group learning spaces, library, cafeteria — all of the things that make BHS what it is, that we have that for everyone.”

There are some questions of how you keep a small school feel and make sure that students can find their pathway, their approach, their tribe within a large campus environment.”

— Susan Wolf Ditkoff

The School Committee, according to Wolf Ditkoff, wants to hear the concerns of all people affected by the high school expansion.

“Lots of times we can’t have everything, and so we would love as much understanding and feedback from the community,” Wolf Ditkoff said. “We have to do all this in a very short time frame with a very constrained budget, mindful of taxpayers, mindful of the impact on the residents, the neighbors, mindful of the the impact on the students.”

Wolf Ditkoff wants the high school to be a school system other communities will follow.

“Brookline High School is the jewel of our town,” Wolf Ditkoff said.“We can be a model for so many other communities in terms of our diversity and educational excellence. The high school embodies so many of those promises and those hopes.”