HomeCommunityAmbitious district-wide facility plans reflect need for athletic venues and collaborative learning spaces

Ambitious district-wide facility plans reflect need for athletic venues and collaborative learning spaces

By GRACE DEAN

Ninety parents, faculty members, students and administrators met on Feb. 5 to help create what they saw as a vision for Carmel Unified that culminated in a facilities master plan to be refined by architectural planning firm LPA and presented to the Board of Trustees on March 13.

The Carmel Middle School master plan alone features a lighted stadium, increased parking, four softball fields, a gym with space for four basketball courts, three soccer fields, eight tennis courts and two baseball fields now possible with the purchase of 8.2 acres of land adjacent to the school.

While Carmel High doesn’t have the land resources for such expansion, its plan still includes increased parking as requested by students for years. The majority of changes in the high school facilities master plan are new spaces on campus, such as the focus on collaborative spaces, outdoor learning centers and arts facilities to reflect already existing teaching practices at the school. For example, the report containing all Carmel Unified schools’ facility master plan drafts includes “spaces that promote connectedness [and] encourage the capacity for innovative thought and practice” as part of the future of learning for CUSD students.

“We’re already engaging students in collaborative learning opportunities, group projects and interactive lessons that require movement and flexible spaces,” CMS principal Dan Morgan says. “A remodel of existing learning spaces to better accommodate existing practices simply allows us to grow and expand on the great ideology and methodology that currently exists.”

The draft plans also reflect student surveys from which a short list of facility needs was created: inflexible classroom design, environmental comfort, parking, food service improvements and water utility improvements were just a few student priorities.

But the plans aren’t meant to be understood as the set future for the district.

“The draft plan… is very conceptual and likely to be scaled back,” Superintendent Barb Dill-Varga says. “The work would have to be staged appropriately over many years so we can continue to run school and educate students.”

Although some smaller parts of the plan could be covered with the district budget, a lot of the big-ticket items will need taxpayer input.

“We are always very cognizant of our responsibility to be good stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars,” Dill-Varga says. “We would want the community to see the value in these plans before proceeding, so many informational meetings would need to occur as we would seek their input and answer questions.”

This part is what Leigh Cambra, adviser of This Club Saves Lives and Health teacher at CHS, says could be difficult.

“I think it would be amazing to do it all,” says Cambra, noting that her greatest priority is stadium lights for the CHS football field, “but realistically it’s probably just a starting point unless the community really gets behind it.”

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