Teacher Kellie Whited and senior Maddy Mahla perform a song on April 18 in the talent show. The event was held in the MP room, which is shared by the drama, music and various other departments. The stage is small and is separated from the audience only by a change in flooring. The MP room is one of many buildings that will be replaced as part of the school ’s master plan in the next 15 years. According to band director Bob Ratcliff, a new performing arts center would mean fewer accidents when moving instruments in and out of storage. (Photo by Elena Lipman)

School pushes for new MS tech building—but performing arts center is still far in future

(This is the first in a two-part coverage of varying views on future building plans at Country Day. Read the second part here and our editorial on the topic here.)

The middle school is at capacity and in desperate need of classrooms; the current middle-school buildings are very old and in poor repair; and the old, cramped MP Room is shared among the bands, the orchestra, drama, student assemblies and dances, to name a few things.

According to headmaster Stephen Repsher, these problems will all be remedied in the next 12-15 years “if we take an aggressive schedule” following the school’s master plan, an ongoing series of major construction projects to update the school.

The current project, planned to begin this summer, is the construction of the Middle School Center for Science, Mathematics and Technology, a replacement for the current building along the pick-up line containing rooms 6A and 6B.

The new building will contain two math classrooms, two modern science labs and a new office (the old middle-school office will be rededicated as a Breakthrough office).

The school has currently raised $800,000 of $1.1 million necessary to begin construction in June (though a total of $1.7 million needs to be collected over two years).

Repsher said this project was always planned to be built next in the master plan (following the Frank Science Center built in 2005 and the lower-school building built in 2008), though it is especially necessary to support the growing middle school.

“The middle school has grown substantially, and the number of middle-school students next year will grow even more,” Repsher said. “The middle school will likely be bigger than the high school next year, and that’s really dictating the need for more space.”

But after this middle-school building is finished, the plans are a little more tentative.

The master plan, which Repsher currently aims to follow, next calls for the replacement of the L-shaped building in the middle school (which includes the art room, maintenance office, classrooms and the middle-school office) followed by the creation of a performing arts building (which would involve replacing or repurposing the MP room).

Repsher said there will be a few years in between each project in order to “give the community a break from capital campaigns,” and each project will probably cost in the neighborhood of $5 million or more.

After both of these buildings are completed, Repsher said the school may look toward replacing the main office and the block of classrooms between it and the Frank Science Center.

But the L-building and performing arts center are both priorities according to Repsher, and there are arguments in favor of both.

Jay Holman, director of the physical plant, said that the L-shaped building is in the greatest need of remodeling.

“This L-building here has served its useful purpose, and its life is coming to an end,” he said.

Holman said the building’s roofing, heating and ventilation, single-pane windows and wood siding (which has had issues with rotting) are old and inefficient.

“It’s not anything that we can’t continue to maintain during this period while we’re waiting, but a building has a life, and unless you’re going to invest a lot of money into it, eventually it’s going to outlive its useful purpose,” Holman said.

According to Repsher, the new L-shaped building will likely be two stories, providing extra classroom, storage and meeting space.

Holman said replacing the MP room would be his second or third priority, despite being older than the L-building (the MP room was built in 1977 while the L-building was built in 1980).

He said the MP room has similar problems as the L-building, but he does not feel they are as urgent.

He also said the school needs to decide what it wants in the MP room, as some features (like the kitchen) are relatively unused, and the space is split among many groups.

But others feel that division makes an upgrade to the MP room more necessary.

The room is currently used as a classroom as well as a performance space for the middle-school and high-school performing arts, as well as to host assemblies, dances and other events.

Band director Bob Ratcliff said this setup is not optimal for conducting the music program.

“What would I want? I’d want the Mondavi Center,” Ratcliff joked.

“(Realistically) I would want my own space, a classroom where I could set up my class and all of my equipment and be able to leave it there—a space where they don’t hold dances or rent it out to other organizations.”

Currently, Ratcliff has to move equipment (such as music stands, chairs and percussion instruments) in and out of the MP room before and after each class.

“That’s how equipment gets broken,” he said. “Usually the kids don’t damage it—usually it gets damaged when it gets stored or moved around.”

Plus, the room doesn’t have a real stage, and the only distinction between the stage and the audience is a change in flooring and a black strip of plastic.

“You’re on the same level as (the audience), you’re looking right out into them and sometimes they sit as close as half a foot away from the stage because of how cramped it gets,” said senior Eric Hilton, who has performed in school plays the past three years.

Repsher said the performing arts center will either replace the current MP room or be part of a two-story multi-purpose center replacing (and incorporating) the gym, locker rooms and portable classrooms behind the gym.

Both options have an additional obstacle, though: if the facility includes fixed seating, the city mandates the school create additional parking spaces.

Repsher said the school currently has no idea how to solve this problem but will talk with the city to figure out a solution.

Still, Repsher is confident the performing arts center, as well as the L-building and possibly some other projects, can be finished within 12-15 years.

And until then, those in favor of certain upgrades will be waiting their turn.

“It’s not like the school is going backwards, and it’s not like it’s standing still. It’s progressing, it is getting better—it’s just sometimes I feel like I’m the last guy in line,” Ratcliff said with a laugh. “And that’s just the way it is.”




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