Bridging the Campus Gap

Harvard-Westlake’s unique division of middle and high school into two

vaguely connected three-year chunks is accompanied by many advantages,

but sometimes it feels like students on the opposite campus might as well

attend an entirely different school.

Steps could easily be taken to bridge the gap

between the two campuses so as to retain their

individual personalities while building helpful

connections. The simplest step that comes to mind

is to create an event to allow upper school faculty

and students the chance to explore the modernized

middle school campus. How many Coldwater

students can say they have yet experienced the 800-

seat Bing Auditorium or set foot in the spacious

middle school cafeteria? It’s not as if we feel

unwelcome, but such an event would be valuable in

uniting the two campuses and boost school spirit in

its own way. The House System is another thread

that could unite the two campuses. Maybe when all

three classes currently on the middle school campus

reach the Upper School, they could carry the House

System up with them.

Freshmen athletes often find themselves shuttled

to the Upper School to practice, and thus develop a

hazy awareness of certain key elements of the upper

school campus – the field, the cafeteria, the sports

locker room. However, performing artists and

students with other interests are rarely required or

encouraged to visit the Coldwater Campus.

Also, it’s not unreasonable to say that the

recent middle school production of “Romeo and

Juliet” went completely unnoticed by many upper

school students, and vice versa for upper school

performances. Simple acts like announcing middle

school concerts and plays at upper school assemblies

and doing a more efficient job of distributing the

Chronicle and the Spectrum at the opposite campus

would weave meaningful connections.

Maybe once a year there could be a “swap

day,” where students switch campuses and get to

experience the way the other half lives. Students

could go to sample classes with past or future

teachers and enjoy the full range of resources

Harvard-Westlake offers. Or maybe there could be

a version of the “Activities Fair” for middle schoolers

to sample upper school extracurriculars. It would

even be helpful if a student could shadow an older

student at some point during the second semester.

The two campuses have distinct personalities and

that is a good thing—we are not asking for the two

ways of life to blend into one continuous experience.

We like that we can reflect on the middle school and

imagine relaxing on the Fire Road or stressing in

Tech & Skills but flash back to the upper school with

entirely different memories of staying up all night or

decorating a friend’s parking space. We would just

like it if seventh grade students could feel somewhat

connected to their senior counterparts, whom they

are, at present, likely to never lay eyes on.

The tour of the Upper School on seventh grade

retreat should not be middle school student’s

only glimpse of upper school life until they are

sophomores. The school can help build a bridge

between the two campuses to make sure all students

can take full advantage of the talented students

and teachers who attend the same school but who

basically exist in a different world.