Choir director Felecia Keys conducts the high school group in the music room, which would be replaced by a new arts center. (Photo by Hermione Xian)

School plans to increase enrollment, replace Multipurpose Room, middle school building

It would take many years, but Country Day hopes to replace the Multipurpose Room and middle school building built in 1977 and 1980, respectively.

SCDS filed plans in the first week of September to change its conditional use agreement with the city of Sacramento, which limits the school’s square footage and enrollment. 

According to head of school Lee Thomsen, the goal of the first phase is to tear down the MP Room and construct a two-story performing arts/community space in its place.

“In order to do that,” Thomsen said, ”we have to get permission from the city of Sacramento so we can make the new building bigger than what the MP Room is now.”

SCDS seeks permission to increase the allowed building space by 10,000 square feet, Thomsen said. The application has been marked as complete by the city of Sacramento and will be reviewed by city officials, which could take up to a year.

The school also plans to construct a new two-story middle school building.

Of the two, the MP Room is the greatest priority, Thomsen said. The new middle school building would replace the current L-shaped building where the art room is located and would include arts facilities, classrooms, a faculty lounge and offices.

Replacing the two buildings would cost $4 million to $6 million each, Thomsen said.

“Optimistically, we could build (the performing arts/community space) in three years, but it would probably be many more,” Thomsen said.

The second phase, replacing the middle school building, is six to 15 years away, according to the application.

The application also requests an increase in the maximum student enrollment by 9%, from 544 to 594 students. The limit increase will give the school more room to grow, Thomsen told the Sacramento Business Journal in September.

The MP Room is constantly in use, according to Thomsen, as the practice room for the jazz band and drama department and the lunch pickup location for the middle school. It is also commonly used for events such as middle school dances and speaker events.

“Our multipurpose room is just a dinosaur of a building,” Thomsen told the Sacramento Business Journal. 

The MP Room doesn’t have seating besides foldable plastic chairs, according to band director Bob Ratcliff, and it doesn’t include separate practice rooms for the band.

Events with more than 75 people must be held in the gym, Thomsen said. 

However, according to Thomsen, none of the proposed changes will happen soon.

“All we’ve done so far is work with architects to look at the ground plan of the campus,” said Thomsen.

According to Thomsen, many things need to happen before building can begin. The conditional use permit application needs to be approved, which could take up to the end of this school year, and a feasibility study, wherein the school meets with donors to determine if the necessary funds can be raised, needs to occur. 

The Board of Trustees then needs to decide whether to go through with the plan, as well as launch a fundraising campaign, which could take several years. The building would also need to be designed and blueprinted, as all current plans are theoretical.

Thomsen said the new building would benefit all the programs and electives that use it.

“We want it just to be bigger and have a bigger stage, with better lighting and sound equipment,” Thomsen said. “We want it to seat about 256 people, so we could bring the whole high school or the whole middle school or even two divisions in to have a community gathering space. We’re looking at retractable seating so it would be more comfortable and layered rows (for better) sightlines. It would be a huge improvement over what we currently have.”

The new MP Room also would have a separate band practice room, which would make a big difference, according to Ratcliff.

“Any teacher needs two fundamental things. One, the students; two, the classroom,” Ratcliff said, “I would have a classroom that I could call my own.”

Ratcliff has had problems with the frequent use of the MP Room, he said.

“We use a lot of equipment (that) has to be torn down all the time when other events occur,” Ratcliff said, “I’ve had parents tell their kids to go play with the instruments while they are busy talking. It’s not toys.”

Sophomore Craig Bolman agreed.

“It’s difficult some days to find a place to practice, and it puts a lot more stress on the teachers. We’ve got so many different groups in only three rooms,” he said.

For these reasons, Ratcliff said, the personalization of the classroom would be a significant improvement.

“Our equipment wouldn’t have to be moved for every class period,” Ratcliff said, “I could put my own posters, pictures, and charts on the walls.”

By Nihal Gulati

Originally published in the Nov. 12 edition of the Octagon.

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