Apr 27 2017

Four Piedmont Seniors Report on Planning for Proposed High School Building Projects

Opinions and involvement –

April 18th School District Town Hall Meeting –

I attended the Town Hall meeting sponsored by the Piedmont Unified School District on April 18th, which focused specifically on the three plans for new high school facilities. The School Board regularly meets every month, however this special meeting was the third of its kind to give the community a chance to see where the money from measure H1 is going to improve school facilities at the high school, and to give the Board, Committee, and staff their input on which renovation plan is superior.

The major issue discussed in this meeting was the need to pick from three alternative plans which utilized a portion of the money raised by bond measure H1 to renovate the high school. All three of these plans included a new STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math) building. In each plan, the STEAM building was placed in a different area of campus: one on the unused blacktop behind the gym, one where the theater currently is, and one where the gym is currently.

The first plan featured the STEAM building along with a new theater and renovated “20’s building” classrooms with new offices. The second included a new theater and a remodeled theater, where the “10’s building” is currently. The third plan featured no new theater, but a new gym and a relocation of Millennium High School to the “20’s building.”

Several points both for and against each plan were brought up by the people attending the meeting at my table, and to the larger group. For the first plan, the best point about it was that it was by far the cheapest of the three plans. However, this plan has some very convincing downsides brought up by the students of Piedmont High School, such as the intense amount of foot traffic it would create from the STEAM building to the main area of campus.

The second plan does not have this problem, because it focuses the main classrooms where they are located now, around the breezeway. This plan also does not eliminate the view of the city from the quad. Another important point brought up by current Piedmont High students was the fact that this plan included Millennium High School the most out of the three plans. Millennium is currently isolated due to the setup of the buildings, but the new STEAM building would shift the focus of the campus onto the quad in plan number two. For these reasons, plan number two is the plan that I believe would be best for Piedmont High School.

The third plan was the least favorite among the people in attendance at the meeting for one simple fact: it does not renovate the theater. The theater is the single largest problem with the high school, and ignoring it to renovate the gym seems illogical to the people in the community. Gina Bartlett, the meeting facilitator, even said that this point was what turned most people away from plan number three.

 After the meeting, I interviewed Kathryn Levenson, one of the current librarians at Piedmont High School. Mrs. Levenson attended this meeting because she is “interested in having a beautiful, environmentally conscious school for students.”  She believes this will help the students reach their full potential at Piedmont High School, and leave a legacy the students at the school now can be proud of. The issue which brought Mrs. Leveson to the meeting was the fact that she wants to “preserve the look” of the library at Piedmont High, while also making sure that the technology stays up to date. Mrs. Levenson enjoyed the meeting, because she found that Piedmont High students had the same concerns as she did, especially when it came to making sure MHS will be more centralized in the new plans for the school. After this meeting Mrs. Levenson plans on coming to the next round of meetings and Board discussions to make her opinions heard by the Board. Along with this, she wants to start conversations about the remodel with students at PHS so they too can have their ideas heard.

by Molly Szczech, Piedmont High School Senior


Measure H1 Meeting

    In the third and final Community Town Hall Meeting on Measure H1, residents, students, and others offered ideas and gained insight on the upcoming project. Held in the PHS Student Center, people were seated at multiple tables and were welcomed by Superintendent Randy Booker.

In his presentation, Booker briefly described the thought process of the School Board during the creation of each option. For instance, he recognized that the placement of the STEAM building in the first option would cause an issue of foot traffic. He also mentioned that the emphasis of the third option was on the placement of the gym; it’s difficult to find and has mobility issues. Additionally, Option Three is more mindful of safety by placing PHS offices at the entrance to monitor who comes in and out. Then he briefly opened it up for a few questions so I asked if they planned on making the new buildings more sustainable to which he assured they were.

After Booker presented an overview of the three options available for renovations, pros and cons were brainstormed in small groups. With people gathered around posters and scribbling down ideas in colorful sharpies, the setting felt more inviting and collaborative than a typical government meeting. In each group, people discussed what they agreed and disagreed with for the three options. For instance, everyone felt strongly about the beautiful view being partially blocked by the STEAM building in Option #1.

Meanwhile, people approved of the new main entrance that would be introduced in Option #3. One person mentioned that they felt the Millennium High School being in the “10s building” for Option #3 would isolate them. However, I completely disagree because any building on campus is closer than where the Millennium is located currently.

After about 25 minutes, everyone reconvened to go over key insights from the discussion. One frequently brought up subject was the STEAM building. Several people questioned if the building needed to be three stories since it would compromise the view. Someone in particular brought up if it would be possible to widen the base of the building to compensate for removing a story.

Finally on a fresh poster, the small groups huddled together to jot down new ideas for any of the options. In my group, people mentioned preserving large trees along the buildings, adding rooftop access to the new buildings, and that the amphitheater should be removed because it’s a waste of space. Throughout the meeting, putting an emphasis on the arts was of interest to those attending. Having space for an art gallery and putting large art pieces around campus were mentioned.

The facilitator, Gina Bartlett, led most of the meeting and was hired by the District to design the workshop. She appreciated everyone’s different perspectives and was surprised to learn that “people are very interested in creative spaces which is more of a recent thing.” Bartlett encouraged those with more concerns to submit comments online and continue to have their voice heard at future meetings. Overall, the meeting was successful in addressing concerns and involving everyone in the process of improving the proposed plans.

by Gina Samec, Piedmont High School Senior


Community Participation in High School Planning

Making sure her three children have the most advancements possible was the reason Zoa Town attended the school board meeting on April 18, 2017.  The meeting was held to discuss the future plans to remodel Piedmont High School.

Superintendent Randy Booker lead the meeting, starting by presenting three of the board’s most viable remodeling plans and explaining some of the potential problems and benefits of each.  Then the community members, school faculty, concerned parents, and students, provided a large range of perspective as they discussed the pros and cons of each option. The three options played with a new gym, a new theater, relocation of PHS offices and all included the addition of a STEAM building.

 Option one proposes the addition of the  three story STEAM building on the flat blacktop behind the gym, a remodeled “twenties building” and a complete remodel of the theater.  This proposes an issue of traffic flow to and from the STEAM building because it will contain most of the classrooms – three hundred to four hundred .  This would require lots of site work and would still be problematic for any disabled students to make their way to and from the building. In addition, this option is the least energy efficient.  However, option one is the cheapest, doing the bare minimum of what could be done.  Overall, this is a strong and viable option.

 Option two was my personal favorite out of the three.  It created the new STEAM building in the current location of the theater, moving the theater to the “thirties building”, and remodels the “twenties building.”  The STEAM building does not block any of the view from the quad and creates a better entrance way for the school.  One additional benefit of this option, as I spoke about in the large group discussion, is that it shifts the center of campus so that Millennium High School and Piedmont High School have a more integrated community.  This option has the most community benefits for the Piedmont Unified School District.

 Option three was a balance of pros and cons.  The STEAM building would be placed in the location of the gym and would have easy access directly from the quad.  This is the most energy efficient building, yet is also the most expensive.  No new theater would be added, however a new gym would take the place of the current thirties building.  Just like option two, the main entrance would be shifted and revamped, however now MHS would no longer be integrated, but instead be moved to the remodeled twenties building.  This would isolate MHS students even further than current conditions and, in my opinion, is not a viable solution.  Logistically, this option makes sense, however it is not the best for our community and the students of both MHS and PHS.

 Being able to speak both in small table groups and in front of the larger group gave me more insight into the process the School Board goes through to make advancements.  It made me realize the importance of student involvement, especially for changes like the remodel plans of a school.  It is key to have the perspective of the students who actually attend the current school and know what works best and what needs improvement.  It is clear to me that option two is the best way to upgrade our campus and change our community for the better.  However, even after attending the New School Facilities Advisory Meeting, there is much more to be considered, as Town told me, there is “still a lot of questions to be asked and answered”.

by Olivia Bott, Piedmont High School Senior


School Board New Facilities Advisory Meeting

    At the meeting I attended, Superintendent Randall Booker and some School Board Members discussed the pros and cons of the possible remodels that will be taking place at Piedmont High School in the coming years. The goal of the meeting was to help gain a better understanding of people’s and student’s opinion on what the new school should look like and to get some original ideas about carrying out the remodel. This was the third meeting so far, and I would assume many more to come as final decisions go down.

The major issues that came up in the discussions were about the location of the new S.T.E.A.M. building and whether to remodel the gym or theater, as funding did not allow for both.

First, in smaller groups we discussed and took notes on plan number 1. The view from the quad and the movement of campus center were the main things discussed. Mr. Booker noted that the walkways from where the new S.T.E.A.M. building would be placed would be not suitable for the new foot traffic.

Another important debate was about whether or not to renovate the gym and the theater.  I asked whether or not both of them could be fixed, but neither completely redone, since money was limited. But, apparently if anything is done to the theater, the whole thing has to be redone to get it up to code.

After this, we moved onto the second plan, which is my personal favorite of the three, as it creates a new S.T.E.A.M. building in the center of campus, establishing a new entry way into the school and making it seem more like a high school. This plan also renovates the theater and maintains the great view from the quad. I think that this plan, like many students at the meeting, also does a good job of incorporating Millennium High School into the larger campus. Since the only problem with this plan is that the gym is not fixed, I find it satisfies the needs of most people in the community, as the gym is still functional.

The third plan, similar to the first, blocks the view from the quad and moves the gym up to the street. While many parents expressed favor for having the gym closer to the street, and near the pool and Recreation Department, I find that this plan disturbs the atmosphere of Piedmont High, isolating Millennium High and sticking the gym in the middle, where it does not really fit.  I think overall most of the students definitely preferred the second plan over the rest, despite it being more expensive.

To get a more in depth opinion from someone other than a student, I interviewed Shirley Lee, who is the mother of a High School sophomore and an eighth grader. She stated that she attended the meeting to learn more about the key issues in the presentation in order to further understand the goals of Piedmont High School and to see what the future of the High School might be.

Lee expressed her appreciation for the many opinions of students and parents alike and that she really enjoyed hearing the pros and cons of all of the plans. It was great that both parents and students, even if they were obliged to be present by school assignments, attended as their opinions differed on many topics. Lee also showed gratitude especially for student attendance, since “they are the ones who know what going to school here is like, while the parents are only here for back-to-school night.”

I personally agree that current students’ opinions are very important, although I may be biased, expressing the difficulties students go through at the school and providing possible solutions. This was a very essential meeting for the future of Piedmont High School as opinions and concerns were really taken into account to better the future of Piedmont High School.

by Trevor Huffaker, Piedmont High School Senior

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the authors.

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