May 2 2017

New High School Facilities Community Town Hall Meeting

Community input provides ideas for the High School building projects. – 

by Samantha Merigold, Piedmont High School Senior –

The Piedmont Unified School District held three Town Hall meetings to get the community’s input on the options for the new high school facilities.  I attended the third meeting on Tuesday, April 18.  The purpose of the meeting was to get feedback on the three proposed options for new facilities at the high school.

In Piedmont’s last election, Bond measure H1 passed, and as a result we have funding for new high school facilities, as they are the oldest of all the schools in Piedmont.  These meetings are held to hear from the community so the Board of Education can take these opinions into account when making a decision on the new designs in May.  The meeting started with a quick presentation and overview.  They described all three options, and then we moved on to table group discussions about the pros and cons of each option.

Option 1 included a new three story STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) building located behind the gym where the portables are currently.  Option 1 would have a completely new theater, and a 20s building remodel and office relocation.  The benefits of Option 1 are that it is the least expensive, it does the minimum of what is needed, and the STEAM building blends in with the topography well when it is located down the hill.  Some challenges include student flow going to and from upper and lower campus, and the tradeoff with the loss of view from the quad but the nice views from within the STEAM building.

Option 2 places the new STEAM building where Alan Harvey Theater is currently located and a new theater.  The PHS offices would be in the STEAM building and the 20s building would undergo a remodel.  Option 2 would provide a new face for the school, the STEAM building would be central campus, and there would be a clear entrance to the school that the PHS offices could oversee.  Some additions that would be nice for Option 2 would be some rooftop student space, because with the new building a lot of lunch spots are lost.  A drawback is it takes an extra ½ a year.

Option 3 would place the new STEAM building where Binks Gym is currently located, replaces the 10s building with a new gym, and places the PHS office in the 40s building.  Benefits of option 3 include a good location of the gym, it is very clear and easy to find for visitors.  The amphitheater is removed because no one really used it anyways, and the PHS offices are at the entrance.

When we started the final recommendations portion of the meeting, we came up with the suggestion that it would be nice to have the location of the Wellness Center, counselors, and College and Career Center all near each other and easy to find.  We thought a helpful alteration to option 3 would be to put the PHS offices in the STEAM building, and keep MHS in the 40s building.  Also a major concern for students is parking, but they have already explored possibilities for parking and they are far too expensive.

After the meeting, I had the opportunity to speak with Eileen Ruby, a member on the board of the Piedmont Education Foundation.  She attended this meeting because she voted for this bond and wanted to see where it was going.  She said what happens at this school is part of the District, so it is important for her to be there.  She is also often asked for her opinion on the new facilities so she comes to these meetings so she can have an educated response to give them.

This meeting consisted of table group discussions, so I was able to speak on several different topics.  For Option 1 I brought up my past experience from the middle school, explaining that the classrooms there had nice views, but the windows were always closed and classrooms far too warm, so the view from the quad is more valuable than the views from the rooms in that building.  I also spoke on the challenge of student flow to and from the STEAM building.  The only way to get to it would be down several flights of stairs, with narrow walkways and too many students moving through.  I mentioned the fact that there are always several injured students at PHS and there is no way someone would be able to maneuver their way there on crutches.

For Option 2, I mentioned that PHS does not look like a school and a lot of people don’t even realize it’s a high school when they drive past.  Option 2 would provide a new face for the school, and make it easy to find as well as showcase our beautiful new STEAM building.  I also talked about the benefit of having a clear entrance to the school.  It is better for safety, and the PHS offices can oversee who comes in and out of the school.  For Option 3 I talked about how the gym is very hard to find, I constantly get asked by random drivers if they are in the right place when looking for the gym.  Having the gym in the front would make it easier to find and also showcase Piedmont’s athletics, something that is a huge part of our student body.  I explained that the amphitheater gets very little use, you can hear everything that everyone says in there so not a lot of people eat lunch there, so we are not losing much by getting rid of it.

Editors Note: Opinions expressed are those of the author.

[To view the Piedmont Highlander student newspaper report on the 3 proposals for the High School click here.]

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