Construction shakes up routine

On 700 North Faring Road gleaming new buildings rise up from an expanse of hot, dry dirt. It’s a little more than one week before the beginning of the new school year – the phone lines are disconnected and there is no internet. Boxes are stacked in empty classrooms, carpets are being laid and workers touch up paint jobs in classrooms.

One week left and the middle school modernization surges forward, pushing the deadline with assorted odd jobs and what Vice President John Amato calls “finish work.” But through the odd jobs the construction site is becoming a campus for the first time as teachers begin to trickle into their offices.

And now, ready or not, the campus is housing 730 middle school students and ready for a return to business as usual, with the addition of a new academic building, library, auditorium, and an expansive Lower Lawn.

Everything was to be ready by yesterday for orientation, while the phone lines and internet were to be up by Friday.

Phase I-B, which includes a new field, will be under way this year while students are on campus, though the school will continue its policy of separating students from the construction with the use of a construction fence.

In the previous two years of the project the physical realities of construction have affected students in minor ways, said Head of Middle School Ronnie Codrington-Cazeau. Freshmen lost the ninth grade circle and used a different locker area, student athletes played more games and practices off campus and in the final months the Lower Lawn began to shrink.

“Faculty were also affected minimally,” Cazeau said. “We lost faculty parking and many folks took the bus or carpooled, but people were great about doing it.”

Summer Enrichment was pushed to the Upper School campus and Fast Start was cancelled. The administration, admission and advancement office also set up on Coldwater.

The admission program is in flux as new seventh graders arrive to a campus vastly different from the one they toured nine months ago.

“We gave a tour of the old campus,” Assistant Director of Admission Michelle Hung said. “But our philosophy is that our school is not buildings, so they were still able to get a feel of student life.”

The new admission system to be implemented this year puts an emphasis on student life. Prospective students will now visit the middle school individually and interview during the week instead of the traditional family visiting day.

“We are thinking very carefully about how to host people in the new buildings. [The ambassadors] are so excited, but we are going to need some time for students to actually experience the school themselves so they can give tours,” Hung said.

Administrators are still unsure how much those experiences will change on the new campus, though the longer term effects of the modernization will be felt beyond the buildings it erected. Eventually, Amato said, the curriculum will adapt to utilize the new resources available.

“We really don’t fully understand the full capabilities of that facility. I’m sure that over time the curriculum will be changed to fill it,” he said. “The greatest thing about the middle school faculty is that they have a great sense of adventure. We’re going to have a great adventure.”