Contemporary renovations transform quad

An open vaulted awning. Windows practically from floor to ceiling. An elevated and elegant platform for the classrooms and lawn.

A few months ago this would hardly have described the high school.

But the decaying 21-year-old portables have had a rather dramatic facelift.

Over the summer they were refurbished and revitalized along with the rest of the quad.

After the Newton Booth plan for the relocation of the high school fell through early last year, the school immediately began looking for solutions to improve already existing facilities, according to headmaster Stephen Repsher.

They found that solution in the PPRRSM, or Provision for Plant Renewal, Repair and Special Maintenance fund.

This fund contains money designated for “capital projects,” or investments that leave behind concrete improvements to the school rather than simply contributing to day-to-day operating expenses.

Using approximately $435,000 from this fund and others, the school embarked on a complete update of the high-school quad, as well as most of its classrooms, over the summer.

Carpets, wall sidings, doors and windows were replaced in all but two of the classrooms surrounding the quad, and a massive vaulted colonnade was added over the central row.

Around the quad only  rooms 1 and 2 (used by teachers Brooke Wells and Patricia Dias) were left relatively untouched.

Louis Kaufman, a local architect and Country Day parent who consulted on the design of the middle school in 2011, oversaw the project with input from both the administration and the Buildings and Grounds Committee of the Board of Trustees.

“The main challenge was to create a strong sense of place, so the landscaping and architecture were focused on redefining the high school as a unique space,” Kaufman said.

“We wanted to be responsive to the style of the lower school  while incorporating a more contemporary look.”

“The tile roofs and colonnade, for instance, not only serve a functional purpose but it is also a very Spanish idea to have a flow from indoor to outdoor,” he added.

Teachers and students are generally enthusiastic about the changes.

“They really enhanced the space and gave it a sense of order,” teacher Jane Batarseh said. “It just seems more planned and more balanced now.”

“It makes (the buildings) look like respectable school buildings, not old portables,” senior Gerardo Vergara said.

Arguably the most striking feature of the renovation—the nearly floor-to-ceiling windows in most rooms—was “an easy decision” for Repsher.

“The idea of having an elegant interior space was key, and we wanted to introduce natural light into the rooms,” Repsher said.

“I think (they) make everyone, or at least me, a little bit happier,” senior Taylor Oeschger said.

Other students, however, have reservations about the amount of visibility that the windows provide. “It’s going to be distracting in class,” senior Ben Hernried said.

But the motivation for revitalizing the quad was not merely aesthetic, according to Repsher.

The portables that make up much of the high school were badly dilapidated after 21 years of use. Wall sidings were rotting, and there was termite damage in several buildings.

The renovation removed those problems, replacing much of the original materials with high-quality composites. “(The sidings) we used are extremely durable and very high quality. They’re meant to last,” Repsher said.

Because the renovations addressed years of maintenance issues, the upkeep cost in the future will now be much lower, according to Repsher.

The school also used approximately $180,000 left over from the bonds issued to cover the cost of the lower-school construction project, Repsher said.

Some donations given towards the new campus were used in funding the renovations.

However, many donors were reluctant to allow their money to go towards the new renovations and requested that donations be used for only the dual campus vision.

But that vision is on hold for the moment.

“I would say (a second campus) is more of a ‘maybe some day’ idea now,” Repsher said.


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