Oct 23, 2012 Ned Campbell Uncategorized
It’s been 43 years since Pine Grove Middle School last saw significant construction work. That was 1969, when the school was first built.
School officials say the middle school is in need of serious repairs if it wants to fulfill ESM’s mission to create an exemplary learning community that will prepare students for the 21st century.
The ESM Board of Education approved a resolution on Oct. 15 to present a $29.4 million plan to voters for the renovation of the middle school. The plan, “A Greener, Greater Grove,” was developed after two years of planning, research and collaboration with community members.
Superintendent Donna DeSiato said the renovations are “clearly needed in order to really provide the type of quality education that our middle school students both deserve and need. The building in and of itself is very outdated, and it is compromising the educational delivery. So this project has become our highest priority.”
The district’s plans call for a complete overhaul of the 118,000-square-foot middle school and a 12,000-square-foot addition to the back of the school, which includes a brand new Community Café/Performing Arts Center big enough to accommodate the entire student body. The renovations will also include a newly designed library with a multi-purpose room.
Students in the school’s music groups are currently bussed to the high school for rehearsals, since there is no space big enough to accommodate the larger groups. There also isn’t a space big enough to hold the entire student body for assemblies. Both of these problems would be fixed with the addition, said Pine Grove Principal Kelly Sajnog.
The district began to explore options for upgrading Pine Grove in October 2010. The district and its design partners, King & King Architects, held a Community Café to involve residents. The goal was to seek residents’ input on facility changes the district could make to support student learning.
This feedback, combined with additional research, revealed that the district needed a cost-effective solution for Pine Grove Middle School to meet the needs of current and future generations of students.
In recent years, the community has approved projects to upgrade the elementary schools and high school so district facilities are in line with the school’s mission statement. Pine Grove Middle School, however, has remained virtually unchanged for 43 years.
Teaching models have evolved since the time Pine Grove was first built, school officials said. ESM’s 21st century educational delivery model emphasizes communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking in a problem-based environment. While middle school administrators and teachers have done their best to conform to this model within the current Pine Grove facility, Sajnog said it is becoming increasingly difficult to do so.
She said students and staff are working in a crowded environment. The building’s horseshoe shape, as well as the narrow staircases, makes it difficult for students to get from class to class.
A Greener, Greater Grove supports the newer educational model by providing space that is flexible for students and staff. This means that the entire student body will be able to gather together comfortably for presentations, assemblies and performances. Students will also have flexible space to collaborate in small groups or learn together in a larger class setting. The new design will be more conducive to interdisciplinary learning, Sajnog said.
“Flexibility of space is really key,” she said. “We need some open spaces, but we need some closed spaces where it’s quiet, and students can concentrate.”
The renovations call for the replacement of major infrastructure systems at the middle school, including electrical, plumbing and mechanical. All windows and doors would be replaced, and some roofing work would also be done. “Green” materials would be used to make the school more energy-efficient and to maximize savings, DeSiato said.
“Our building systems, the infrastructure, are the original systems, so they’re very clearly more than four decades old,” she said.
The renovations will cost an estimated $29.4 million, but 74.9 percent of that will be covered by state building aid. The district will have to cover $6.1 million, and plans to do so by pulling from its capital reserves and with a modest tax increase. The project will cost taxpayers $9.94 a year for a home assessed at $100,000 for the next 17 years.
If the plan is approved by the voters, construction is scheduled to begin in summer 2014, with work completed by fall 2015 or early 2016. The district is looking at options for temporary locations in which to house the school’s 750 students in grades six through eight while the renovations are made.
A project overview will be mailed to all ESM homes by early December. Residents will have the opportunity to vote on the project from noon to 9 p.m. Dec. 19 at the Central High School.
School officials will present the plans during the Dec. 10 school board meeting at Pine Grove Middle School. Residents can also learn more online at esmschools.org/pgproject.
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