Principal says B.A. School works well

Sites many advantages to open-space classrooms

By: Nick D’Amore
   The setup of the Brunswick Acres School, with its lack of walls and use of open-space classrooms, while not perfect, is not adversely affecting education at the school, school officials said.
   Principal Joseph Anzek said having walls in the school is not a major issue for the staff and students who spend their days in the building.
   "Open-space schools were started in the 1970s. They were thought to be economical and had a lot of flexibility," he said.
   The open-space configuration of the Brunswick Acres School dates back to its construction in 1975. A new wing was added in 1989 and included enclosed classrooms for kindergarten students. Two more enclosed classes were added last year, one for special education classes and one for a second-grade class.
   Monmouth Junction and Cambridge schools also have some open space classrooms that were built as part of additions to the schools in 1975.
   When the school board redrew the boundaries used to determine which students attend which school, some parents of students at Greenbrook School were told their children will be attending Brunswick Acres next year. Some of these parents have said open-space classrooms need to be upgraded to have walls, like traditional classrooms found elsewhere.
   The students were originally expected to attend the recently built Brooks Crossing School, however, crowded conditions mean those students will instead go to Brunswick Acres.
   While Mr. Anzek said he has no objection to walls being built, he does see advantages to the current setup.
   "The kids are in constant contact with staff," he said.
   One issue he is concerned about is ventilation. Currently, there are two vents running across the large room of classrooms on either side that perpetuate air flow throughout the open-space area from one side to the other, "creating a vortex," said Mr. Anzek. He said placing permanent walls in the area could restrict the air ventilation system in place.
   Brunswick Acres classrooms resemble their traditional counterparts. There are computers in many classrooms, desk space for students, as well as floor space for other activities.
   Mr. Anzek said noise levels can get high at times and that students sometimes need to be reminded "to use indoor voices."
   Mr. Anzek said the classroom setup of the open-space area has not changed in many years. The classrooms there range from 750 to 950 square feet.
   "They are a pretty good size," he said.
   Some classroom space will be freed up this September, when the school gets trailers to be used as two classrooms. The school already has a 40-by-14 trailer, which is expected to become a computer lab, said Mr. Anzek.
   "We can fit a full class of students, if we use the trailer as a lab," he said.
   In the existing trailer, Mr. Anzek said a wall may be put up inside to allow for small group music instruction on one side and the computer lab on the other.
   He said the new double-wide trailers that will be coming are more square in shape, creating more of a classroom feel. They will be 25 feet by 30 feet, he said.
   He said the school is still discussing which grades will be using the trailers as their regular classrooms.
   The trailers became necessary because of expected crowding at Brooks Crossing School, slated to open in September. As a result of the crowding, the district needed to keep 90 students that would have gone to Brooks Crossing at their current schools.
   Mr. Anzek said he asked that 24 Brunswick Acres students remain at the school, instead of going to Brooks Crossing, so that the school could get the trailers.
   "I asked for them back because we get to keep 24 of our kids at their elementary school and because we will be getting 24 children, but we will have space for 46 more students with the addition of the trailers," he said.
   Mr. Anzek said with or without walls, the school will still function effectively and students will still be achieving academically.
   "It would be OK with or without walls, it’s not a big deal. I can think of other things to spend the money on. Walls could improve some things, but force us to give up some things, such as hallway space and ventilation. We also could have smaller classrooms," he said.
   "Brunswick Acres is still highly functioning. It works well for the kids who attend the school. Parents that have kids in the school know the strength of the school really outweighs the lack of walls," said Mr. Anzek.