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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.

Matthew Wilson August 30, 2012 at 12:28 PM
I like the renovations in general, but this part worries me: "Mc Nichols said students will use "finger-tip" technology such as eReaders and laptops so they don't have to sit at a traditional desk." That stuff is expensive. Really expensive. Technology in classrooms has a crummy track record. I remember twenty years ago when every school district eagerly spent money on multi-media educational software. Didn't really help, but salespeople made a lot of commissions. In the end, it's all about having the really good educators. Instead of spending a bunch of money on doodads, I'd prefer we find the best teachers money can buy and pay them enough to keep them. A really great teacher with a chalkboard will be more effective than a mediocre teacher and a bunch of students on laptops.
Patti Carlyle August 30, 2012 at 01:55 PM
matthew...i tend to agree. technology is a merely an augmentation to solid teaching. it makes bad schools worse and good schools better. disclaimer: i am a luddite, and love the chalkboard over the smartboard. one thing to consider about the finances though...i wonder about students each with their own ipad/nook/whatever, loaded up with etextbooks. a big up front expense, sure, but after seeing a pretty abused stack of books walking through the high school last week, it could solve the heft, wear-and-tear, outdated and expense problem all at once. personally, i prefer real books over an ereader, but i also think that education should include lots of hands on learning beyond the textbooks anyway...my best teachers used the text as a supplement more than a core. at the very least, use of that kind of tech gives the district access to better, more up to date books [after all the red-tape approval, of course], as well as a quick path to supplemental materials. with the shift to inquiry based learning/IB/STEM, i would think the textbook list will need an overhaul anyway... that being said, the students giving us a tour of the high school saw the new legacy classrooms for the first time, and one joked about switching from mosaic. creating an environment that invites students, and makes them feel inspired, at ease - worth it, honestly - will only foster learning. even with my specific hesitations, i am so excited and hopeful about the direction and all the community support!
Ariel Travis August 30, 2012 at 01:57 PM
As a 2012 Heights High graduate, I could not more strongly agree!
Michael's Shorts August 30, 2012 at 05:05 PM
I'm shocked these new classrooms were built at Roxboro. I mean it's a total surprise that Monticello or Wiley wasn't chosen. Seriously though, what's the research say about the effectiveness of these types of classrooms? Also, CHUH has had personal laptops for students in grades 6-12 since the mid-2000s. The next step is tablets, but it needs to be pointed out that the district has already been shelling out for cutting edge technology for some time now. Someone should ask them about the role SmartBoards will be playing moving forward. That was a big investment in something that will likely be obsolete sooner that you might think.
Eric Silverman August 31, 2012 at 01:23 PM
While the renovation work at Roxboro is impressive, one must keep a few things in mind. 1st, the space at Roxboro was so poorly conceived and designed that ANY change would be good. Adding natural light and removing the dungeon like quality were long overdue. 2nd, regardless of the design concept, spending between close to $2,000,000 on these three pilots was guaranteed to create fresh and inviting spaces. If you add new flooring, lighting, furniture, technology and paint to our buildings you are apt to create change that impresses people. Keep in mind that this 2MM is nearly half of this year's entire permanent improvements budget. As it has been anywhere from 15 to 40 years since buildings have received this kind of attention, the impacts, regardless of design, will be impressive. The question is will these 21st Century open classrooms create the desired educational outcomes and what is the cost when applied District wide. Call me a luddite, but I like a room with walls. If you want to connect two rooms with a partition, at least give me something more dignified than a garage door. :)
Garry Kanter August 31, 2012 at 02:18 PM
Sooo, we spend big $ to change an old school building to accommodate "Open Classrooms", and we're going to tear down and rebuild Boulevard because it was *designed* with "Open Classrooms". Do I have that right?
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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