BY ZOE GARDERET
In a long-term goal to redesign school campuses and support its Facilities Master Plan, Carmel Unified School District is pursuing a bond measure, an initiative paid for by Carmel taxpayers that seeks to improve facilities and classroom technology as well as develop new infrastructure.
Due to the many phases of the Facilities Master Plan—assessing voter interest, planning and construction—it will be a multi-year development, projected to extend over 10 years. Carmel High School Principal Jonathan Lyons and Superintendent Barb Dill-Varga emphasize that the planning is mostly theoretical at this point as the district is still evaluating voter support.
“Really it comes down to whether the board feels that there will be an appetite for support by this November,” Lyons says. “The question is whether they will go for the bond during this November election or wait until 2022.”
To determine voter interest, the board hired a research company that distributed a survey to a sample of Carmel voters, with results indicating that the majority of taxpayers approve the bond measure. The district will decide by July whether to place the measure on the 2020 ballot, and the discussion will become more public when the board shares an updated plan with the community and receives feedback starting in April.
The bond would impact all CUSD campuses with an emphasis on reconstructing CHS.
“The community advisory council…came to a consensus that the majority of the work needs to happen at the high school,” Dill-Varga says. “Something the board has discussed as being an issue is that it’s missing a heart to the campus.”
CHS may see the construction of a new student services building, a communal space that includes counseling services and a health center, functioning as both a hangout area for students during lunch and a hub for academic and wellness resources.
Lyons emphasizes the importance of fostering the feeling of an on-campus home for students, an idea that has inspired discussion of the student center.
“Right now one of the only communal places kids gather is the library,” Lyons explains. “We’d like to have another version of that, whether it’s a redesigned cafeteria or something similar.”
A comprehensive modernization of CHS facilities is also included in an outline for the Facilities Master Plan, which can be found on CUSD’s website and details potential areas for improvement.
Because the administration offices and some classroom wings have not been updated since the late 1930s, the outline includes plans to replace those buildings and modernize areas like the school’s kitchen and restrooms. It also seeks to implement new classroom mechanical systems like heating units and air conditioning, increase technology in the gym and add more athletics storage areas.
Conversations about this plan began over two years ago when the district met with parents, teachers, students and community members to gather opinions about the needs of each campus.
“We took a year to talk about what we believe about teaching and learning, how that philosophy meshes with the facilities we have and where there are gaps,” Dill-Varga says. “Last year we took that philosophy and let it inform our work with an architectural firm.”
Using feedback from its stakeholders, the district developed ideas for how to turn its learning philosophy into a physical format on each campus. Lyons notes that students and teachers will play a key role in offering ideas for the plan, especially in the discussion of student social areas.
“Some teachers who would be affected the most were already brought in,” he says. “As for the design of specific spaces, I want to bring student feedback into those questions, so that’s when we’ll go to ASB.”
ASB students have already been involved in a conversation with Lyons about redesigning the cafeteria, discussing possible new colors, equipment and furniture to increase its appeal as a student gathering area.
The principal is looking to the current freshmen and sophomores for feedback since they will be most impacted by the construction and design process. If the Facilities Master Plan goes forward as proposed, the community can expect incremental changes in the physical and ideological structures of CUSD in coming years.