New building embracing ‘flexibility’

Ezra Fax

GOING UP: View of new building from Olympia Medical Center parking lot March 11 shows the east side of Shalhevet's new campus with, at center, red iron frame of the dome that will top the lobby's spiral staircase.

By Alexa Fishman

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UPDATED–Construction on the new building is on time and is set to finish in July, and the administration is now focusing on space usage and furniture. According to school leaders, all options are open, including which rooms will be used for classes and how many classrooms there will be.

The plans are not yet finalized, but Board President Mr. Larry Gill said that no large changes have been made in the plans since they were first publicized in the spring of 2012.

“A project is a living and breathing thing, and there are always going to be some minor adjustments,” said Mr. Gill. “Things so far are looking great.”

As the building has gone up in recent months, the most noticeable change has been that the entrance driveway leading to the parking lot will be on the north side of the building, next to Tom Bergin’s Irish Pub, instead of at the south end closer to San Vicente Boulevard.

We want to take great teaching and marry it to the newest research about how students and groups learn best.”

— Rabbi Segal

In the original plans, there were 16 classrooms, not counting assembly and prayer spaces. The number of classrooms in the new building isn’t clear, and Boiling Point staff have not been permitted to visit the construction site because they are not yet 18.

But according to Head of School Rabbi Segal, no rooms of the new building have been designated for specific uses, and the building will have flexibility and furniture allowing each room to be multi-purpose.

“We want to take great teaching and marry it to the newest research about how students and groups learn best, which is group work and flexible learning environments,” said Rabbi Segal. “We’ve been starting to move towards that.”

Rabbi Segal said that the teachers would be able to use multiple classrooms and outside space. The building will also feature an art studio, theater, music room, two science labs, and space for a band to practice, he said, though other things would also take place in those spaces.

And although Rabbi Segal could not specifically say how many classrooms the new building would have, he said that teachers would be able to use other spaces, including two Batei Midrash and a downstairs theater and Bet Knesset space, as classrooms also.

“All of our spaces, including our Beit Midrash, will be multi-use spaces,” Rabbi Segal said in an interview. “In our view of Judaism, everything blends together, so you can have a science class in the same room as davening or a chessed [community service] project.”

Meanwhile, construction has not visibly started on the apartment complex being built on the rest of school’s old campus. However, construction trailers have appeared on the student parking lot, meaning students have had to find street parking since March.

Mr. Gill said the trailers would only be there for a few months and that students would be able to park in the lot for most of next school year.

“Alliance will now be starting its demolition in earnest,” said Mr. Gill. “By the time that next year comes around, Alliance will be done with its first stage.”

The new building will also have one large faculty room for all the teachers—something Rabbi Segal instituted when he arrived in 2011—and not separate offices for each department.

I hope that we can build the theater of our dreams.”

— Drama director Ms. Emily Chase

“If each department has its own office, then the departments will end up becoming separate,” said Rabbi Segal. “This way, there’s cross-pollination of educational methodology and ideas.”

AP Biology teacher Dr. Melissa Noel is very excited about the new science labs.

“I’m thrilled that we are going to have a lab in which we’ll actually be able to carry out dissections and experiments, which we will be doing next year all the time,” said Dr. Noel. “Air conditioning is great too.”

Drama Director Ms. Emily Chase is looking forward to the new theater.

“It’s so nice that we are going to have a designated theater after being gypsies this year,” said Ms. Chase. “I hope that we can build the theater of our dreams.”

Senior Drama member Sara Sobolev agrees.

“Being in the JCC this year has made rehearsal and preparing for productions pretty difficult because there isn’t an adequate place to practice,” said Sara. “I hope that next year the drama department has a beautiful theater that they can utilize however they want to.”