Room to breathe, learn and then some

School district plans how to best use space when middle school moves off campus


ALLENTOWN — All students will have more room to learn when the new middle school opens.

Upper Freehold Regional School District administrators collaborated with staff to best determine how space in the current elementary/middle school, high school, annex buildings, and trailers on the High Street campus could be used starting in September 2010.

The school district evaluated all existing space on campus, assessing the number of rooms available, and reviewing the conditions and special features of each area to determine their most appropriate use, Superintendent of Schools Dick Fitzpatrick said.

Administrators at each school have submitted draft plans for space utilization to the Board of Education. Fitzpatrick has asked the board to review the plans and to vote on their implementation at the Feb. 3 meeting.

Fitzpatrick told the board that the cost of making the necessary moves, modifications, and repairs to execute the plans put forth by each school would amount to $45,000. He said the school district’s maintenance staff would do most of the work.

Allentown High School Vice Principal Brian Myslinski said there has been a 21- percent increase in the student population at the high school since 2004, with at least 1,172 expected to attend the school in 2010.

“We’ve had a 21-percent increase and no additional space,” Myslinski said.

Myslinski reported on the learning conditions at the high school. Currently, social studies teachers conduct classes in the agricultural building and the high school’s choir room, media center and science labs because of a lack of space. Mathematics and English department teachers have been conducting classes in basic skills rooms. As a result of the limited space in these rooms, certain classes have been reduced to 12 students, which has increased the number of students in other sections, Myslinski said.

The science department has insufficient lab and classroom space, because nonscience classes have been using these areas of the school, Myslinski said. Health classes with 50-60 students are being taught on the auditorium stage and in the choir room. Students haven’t had much hands-on experience in computer graphics classes because these classes have been held in information technology classrooms, making these rooms unavailable to other departments. The school also needs more technology labs and space for physical education electives and record storage, Myslinski said.

Principal Chris Nagy said the high school looks forward to getting back the annex space it used prior to 2004.

“We’re bursting at the seams,” Nagy said. “The corridors are packed with students.”

The high school has recommended the annex become a “Global Studies Center” with seven world language classes and a technology lab for global literacy. Career services, such as the senior practicum, and two science labs — advanced biology and anatomy/physiology — would also move into the annex.

Nagy said the technology available in the center would create an interdisciplinary approach to learning about the technological and global arenas. He said students would be able to enhance their language, career and science education in the center with Web 2.0 applications such as Skype, videoconferencing and podcasting. He said there would be distance-learning opportunities for students to connect to students in other countries and corporations in their fields of interest.

Vice Principal Connie Embley explained how the high school could execute its plan. She said the high school building would need science room repairs, and engineering room upgrades for AutoCAD. She also said a fine-arts computer lab would be created by having the district maintenance staff install wiring and computers in Room 102. Two trailers behind the annex would be used for record storage and one trailer with a rest room would be used as a transportation office and driver day room, she said.

Elementary school Principal Kelly Huggins said, “Space has been a major challenge at the elementary and middle school,” noting primary school students were moved off campus this year to Millstone, thirdgraders are being taught in trailers, and other students are taking classes in the library, cafeteria and other nontraditional learning spaces.

When the middle school students and staff move to their new school, the elementary school would have an earlychildhood wing for three prekindergarten and six (increased from three) kindergarten rooms. The youngest students in the school would share the first floor with first- and second-graders but would be closest to the main office and the nurse. Third and fourth grades would have their own area upstairs, she said.

All instructional programs would return to conventional classroom spaces and cafeteria use for class would cease. The school would also have a designated Spanish class, broadcasting room and Child Study Team suite, Huggins said.

All elementary school teachers would have appropriate work and break space. Teachers currently eat lunch and grade papers in classrooms while other teachers are conducting classes and in the principal’s office, according to Huggins.

The elementary school has also requested collapsible tables on wheels for the cafeteria and that the auditorium be painted.

The district is also considering using five classrooms on the top floor of the elementary school for Board of Education offices and a conference room. The board would have a sectioned-off area on the side of the school that faces the high school and has an outdoor staircase. The trailers at the elementary school may be used for special services and/or record storage. The district has to evaluate the trailers and the structure currently used as the Board of Education office suite to ensure they continue to meet standards for meeting and/or storage space.

“The Space Utilization Committee has made recommendations to best meet the needs of kids, not just for next year, but for an extended period of time,” Fitzpatrick said.