Capital Project Community Advisory Committee Meeting Notes for Nov. 20

The meeting included continued conversation of the district’s vision for academic programs and discussion of a preliminary draft of the Pupil Capacity Analysis of district schools. Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr., emphasized the importance of capital project planning being based on the vision for programs – what students need for the future.

Vision informed by program reviews

Assistant Superintendent Lauren Gemmill described the program review process that the district established three years ago to ensure proactive and systematic planning in each academic subject area.

This is a deliberate, evidence-based process that calls for each academic area to undergo a structured review on a six-year cycle – allowing time to budget for, implement, and monitor changes.

  • Department program review teams are made up of the director and teachers from all levels.
  • There are three pillars to the program review findings: curriculum; assessments and data; and instructional supports.
  • The program reviews conducted to date helped inform the academic vision shared at the committee’s meeting last month and has implications for capital project planning.
  • So far, the Science & Engineering Technology Department, the World Language Department, and the Department of Art & Design have undergone program reviews.
  • The Business and Social Studies departments began program reviews this year.

At the meeting, Director of Science & Engineering Technology Jackie Carrese, Director of World Language Marie Digirolamo, and Director of Art & Design Kelly Jones provided an overview of the program review findings from their respective departments with a focus on facilities needs.

Science & Engineering Technology

  • New state learning standards for science emphasize the “doing of science” and engineering practices beginning at the elementary level.
  • The department’s most significant need is for facilities to support and strengthen the science and engineering program at all levels. Currently, rooms lack basic science features for instruction at the elementary and middle schools and there is no space for hands-on, interdisciplinary activities (integrating science, engineering, math and art, etc.) at all levels. Additional needs included updated ventilation for chemical storage areas and dust collection systems in engineering technology rooms. There is also a lack of functional space for instruction, as physics labs are done in hallways at middle and high school.
  • There is also a need for more storage space at all levels.

Art & Design

  • New learning standards for the arts separate the visual and media arts, and also emphasize student choice and voice, and presentation and production of art (e.g. selecting and preparing work for a show).
  • The program review called for more interdisciplinary work, especially learning that integrates the arts and science and technology (STEAM). More visiting artists were also emphasized.
  • An animation course is being added at the high school in 2019-20.
  • The department would like to have a full-time art educator in each elementary school to facilitate more artistic and interdisciplinary connections.
  • The Van Antwerp Middle School art rooms are insufficient.
  • It would be ideal to have a multi-use space adjoining the Art & Design Resource Center to provide a supervised setting for students to: access dedicated studio space and spend more time on individual projects; use studio lighting for pictures of work for portfolios and develop photography skills; spend time in groups critiquing work; matte and/or prepare work for shows.
  • The department would like to reconfigure the digital media arts lab (currently rows of computers all facing one direction) so that it provides more space for collaboration and has a dedicated stop-motion animation area.
  • The Nisk-Art Gallery needs to be upgraded to become a truly professional gallery. This is a unique space in a school and adds to the program.

World Language

  • The World Language Department is updating its curriculum with an emphasis on more real-world language experiences, including connections to local and global language communities.
  • The department would like to expand world language study to the elementary program as part of an overall focus on students developing a global competencies.
  • Larger space is needed for interdisciplinary activities that connect language, other academic areas and technology. Examples include connecting with language communities over technology or a world health fair that combines language and culture with health, social studies and presentation skills.

Pupil Capacity Study

Consultant Paul Seversky, of SES Study Team, is working closely with the Capital Project Community Advisory Committee this year and conducting studies of existing capacity in the schools, enrollment projections, and program delivery options.

At the meeting, Dr. Seversky reviewed and discussed a draft Pupil Capacity Analysis of each school with the committee.

  • The capacity analysis is based on current enrollment, available space in the schools within the current configuration and the district’s class size targets.
  • In the current draft, the elementary schools are using 95 percent of overall capacity; the middle schools are using 90 percent and the high school is using 99 percent.
  • Dr. Seversky said that it is generally considered good planning to have about 10 percent of unused capacity available. (Nearly all of the schools currently have less than this number.)
  • Additionally, enrollment is projected to increase in the coming years. Update enrollment projections will be shared with the committee and community in the coming months.
  • The charge of the program delivery study is to identify “doable options” for program delivery, including school configuration, given the program vision for the district.
  • Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra, Jr. has said that no schools will close, yet there is likely to be a need for renovations and some expansion.
  • In approaching the study of “how space is used,” Dr. Seversky noted that he has heard a focus on instructional support space, such as flexible spaces for interdisciplinary work or hands-on projects, to provide equity and achieve the program vision.
  • Dr. Seversky is visiting all district schools in the coming weeks as part of finalizing the Pupil Capacity Study. Once it is final, it will be shared with the Board of Education and posted on the website.

Next meeting of the Capital Project Community Advisory Committee

To be determined; the meeting date/time will be posted on the website and district calendar when it is established.