Give us a student center

Chronicle Staff

Though it’s only been a few months since the first shovelful of dirt was moved at the Middle School, it’s already time to start thinking about a modernized Coldwater campus. The new Director of Upper School Master Planning John Feulner is going to be soliciting suggestions this semester about how best to remake the campus, and here’s ours: free up flat space for a central campus center and everything else will fall into place.

Yes, much of the current convoluted layout of the upper campus is a product of geography. The need to reserve all available flat space for the athletic field and parking lots have in the past forced new classroom buildings to be built on steep hillsides, and the sprawling network of stairs that covers the campus is simply a nasty byproduct.

But if one of the larger parking lots was replaced by a multi-story parking structure that could house all student vehicles, thousands of flat square feet could be opened up for a revamped campus center.

Envision a centrally located building complex that will act as a student union, complete with a more spacious cafeteria, a computer lab and a student lounge with WiFi access stashed with newspapers and magazines. Not far away is a performance space that isn’t located directly below classrooms, so students can use it during the school day to unwind and flex their creative muscle. And a study room that is closer to the heart of campus would make going to Silent Study less like Siberian exile.

In addition to the campus center, a secondary “student” gymnasium would also be a worthwhile facility to build. A small gym, even if it’s little more than half of a basketball court and a weight room, can help non-athletes stay in shape, especially once there aren’t as many steps left to climb. Moreover, when sports like cross country are kicked out of the weight room in Taper to make room for football, they will have somewhere to go.

Speaking of athletics, there may even be room on the roof of the new parking structure to build in a tennis court or two.

Another important consideration when redesigning the campus is the placement of green space. While the pit between Rugby and Chalmers does act like an island of green in a river of concrete, it’s too small to do anything more than play a game of catch, and the main football field is far too huge and remote to be inviting. A medium-sized patch of grass, akin to a smaller version of the lower lawn at the Middle School, would be ideal for casual sporting events and socializing, perhaps located where the faculty lot is now.

Of course, there are limits to what can be accomplished. Every new addition will undoubtedly cost millions of dollars, and building projects must be carefully scheduled so that the school can continue to function during construction.

So take heed, administration: this isn’t a series of demands, but more of a wish list. Build any one of these and the students will be satisfied. Well, as satisfied as we can be given that by the time the construction is started, none of us will still be here to see it.