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Pilot Classrooms Provide Preview Of CH-UH Facilities Master Plan

As part of the CH-UH Facilities Master Plan, a team of architects created three pilot programs, a $1.65 million project, at Oxford Elementary School, Roxboro Middle School and Cleveland Heights High School.

Some students in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District started the 2012-2013 school year in newly renovated spaces.

As part of the CH-UH Facilities Master Plan, a team of architects created three pilot programs, a $1.65 million project, at , and .

The classrooms, which are a total of 23,400 square feet, are a preview of the work that could be done in district buildings when the plan, , is funded and finalized.

The CH-UH School Board hosted its in the , which has six renovated classrooms and will house 185 sixth-graders. 

Roxboro Principal Patrick Mc Nichols talked about the renovation at the meeting. Not only do the classrooms look different, but teachers and students will use them differently, too. He talked about how the CH-UH model is different than what he saw when he was an administrator at Lakewood City Schools.

"Basically what I saw (in Lakewood) was what looked like new versions of the old school ... when I got to the classroom, you still had 30 kids lined up in rows with the teacher in the front," Mc Nichols said. "We really need to do something different in order to reach our students today."

The new sixth-grade wing cost $375,676, which includes construction fees and furniture, according to George Petkac, assistant director of business services.

"The work included the removal of portions of existing walls, the installation of some new walls, new ceilings and lighting, new doors and movable partitions, modifications to the HVAC systems, electrical and technology infrastructure upgrades, new interior finishes including flooring and painting and new furniture and equipment," said Business Services Director Steve Shergalis by e-mail.

Classrooms have features that allow teachers to group classes in different ways. For instance, a glass partition that moves like a garage door can be closed to make a room the traditional classroom size, or opened to join rooms for group projects. There are small-group work tables, conference tables, and couches in chairs in the individual rooms so students can work in a variety of spaces depending on the group size and project. SMART boards will be in each room.

Teachers also have a separate area where they can host meetings and collaborate.

Mc Nichols said students will use "finger-tip" technology such as eReaders so they don't have to sit at a traditional desk.

The separate classrooms are connected to a lager, common space for group work. The renovated space includes 5,000 square feet of the sixth-grade wing. Windows were installed so teachers and students can see into all the classrooms, and those with no natural light now have some from adjoining rooms.

Jennifer Hollender, a sixth-grade math teacher at Roxboro, referred to the old, mostly windowless space as a "dungeon."

"We are all very, very excited about the changes down here ... it's much, much more open, we're no longer secluded in our own areas," Hollender said.

The teachers, who received professional development before school started, group students based on their abilities to target their needs, and she said the space will facilitate that work.

Architects from Fielding Nair designed the spaces and studioTECHNE prepared the bidding and construction documents and managed the construction of the rooms, said Marc Ciccarelli, architect with studioTECHNE. Both with Fanning Howey and Regency Construction.

Angee Shaker, communications director for the district, said upcoming board meetings will be held at the other new pilots at Heights High and Oxford so that the community can see those spaces, too. In addition, the schools will provide tours of the pilots.

"We anticipate parent and community tours will begin in October during class time. Our teachers and students will need some time to adjust to the new school year and their new setting before we begin providing tours," Shaker said.    

The nine-classroom Heights High Legacy New Tech is by far the biggest pilot at 12,000 square feet, and the district spent $994,000, according to Shergalis and Petkac. The Oxford pilot is five classrooms, 6,200 square feet and cost $290,000.

Browse our photos included with this article to see the Roxboro pilot.

Staci Marshall August 31, 2012 at 02:34 PM
So, instead of teaching kids handwriting, will they now learn keyboarding? Let's give our already attention challenged children point and click devices that they use with their fingertips so they don't have to learn to sit down, research, or use any thinking skills beyond what pre-guided tools will direct them to? This is not teaching kids how to learn at all! We need to implement how to learn back in the schools. Children need the basics. Reading, writing, and arithmetic. Once they learn those basics they can go anywhere. That's how the people who designed all the very popular "toys" we have today were taught. Don't we want our children to be the future designers for this world?
Mike Rotman August 31, 2012 at 03:01 PM
I could not disagree more with these comments. Students need to learn the skills necessary for success in 21st-century universities and jobs. This includes knowing how to type, research information on the internet, and use a wide variety of software. Many students are already using smartphones and computers at home -- why not harness their natural interest in these technologies to make the teaching of the "basics" more relevant and interesting for them?
John Hubbard August 31, 2012 at 03:24 PM
What a great thread! I love the level of engagement and hope the discussion continues as our community looks at designing and funding our much needed facilities improvements in the coming months.
Michael's Shorts August 31, 2012 at 08:07 PM
I agree entirely with your sentiment here Mr. Silverman. The buildings do need to be updated and buildings probably do need to be consolidated. I believe this can (and probably should) be done without going to another fad classroom design.
Michael's Shorts August 31, 2012 at 08:18 PM
Although I have concerns with the modern-day open classroom design that the BOE seems interested in pursuing, I also think it's important to keep talking about potential school reorganization. Our district is still big enough that it should/could be able to offer residents some options beyond the simple one-size-fits-all comprehensive school model. I'd like to see a few magnet school options considered, particularly a Montessori-type school for elementary grades (at least through grade six) and also an honors school for secondary grades (maybe grades 7-12). The latter would ideally have its own campus and could be heavily based around AP and IB courses. I think it's important that the district do some things that might actually attract middle- and upper-class families back into the district and the schools, the types of families that used the schools in the 1990s or earlier but now either move to other districts or remain here but opt for private schools. One of the third rails of the CH-UH district is the fact that such a low percentage of school-age children living in its constituent cities actually use the public schools. In fact I'd be willing to bet that we have one of the lowest percentages in this category of any district in Northeast Ohio.

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