by BENJAMÍN RASCÓN GRACIA - Westfield High School’s expansion means more than just parking.
WESTFIELD, Ind. (April 7, 2019) - If you want to make any upperclassman groan with one simple word, without fail, just say: “Parking.”
It seems as though a simple renovation has taken hold of so much anger and frustration from students who just want to drive. Seems simple enough to ask, doesn’t it?
While I was lucky enough to get an overflow pass, I share your griefs as I still have to walk from the middle school to the high school every morning in our exceptional Indiana weather. I’m probably going to have to fight for a parking spot tomorrow as well. Lovely way to start the morning.
But, if Mr. Ralph Robinson has taught me anything in life, it’s that we can’t think of everything in the short run--the long run is what’s most important, well, in the long run.
I assure you that while our administration absolutely cares about the parking situation and has tried their best to alleviate it, they ultimately also care about the state of the school in the long run. Nothing made me more sure of that than my interview with our very own Dr. McGuire.
Dr. McGuire explained to me all of the changes that the school will undergo, including, yes, 186 new parking spots. 186. We soon-to-be seniors might not share those spoils in our time here at Westfield, but, rest assured of two things: 1) it has gotten better and 2) it will get better.
Let’s go back to fall break, when the “woe is me” finsta posts exploded. Most would agree that the first day back from fall break in 2018 was insane (as expected). Rock Alley and Door 1 were closed, and everyone funneled through one little entrance. But neither Dr. McGuire nor the administration were careless in their approach to the drastic change--quite the contrary, they planned well, but some things needed to be tried before they were figured out.
"I always feel like you go in, you make a plan, right?” Dr. McGuire said. “And you have to give your plan time to work. Because the first time you make a major change like that, it’s not possible it’s going to be perfect. Sometimes you see that something is a mess and you have to change it instantly, right, but I had told the administrative team, ‘Ok, we’re going to do this for one week, because people have got to adjust--we’re talking about thousands of people, adjusting to thousands of schedules and getting used to a new way of doing things.’”
Of course, if there was any glaring problem with safety, that would be a priority to fix. But, aside from that, the situation seemed to rapidly improve. According to Dr. McGuire, we got there by day four. Why? Because the team worked every day to find weak spots.
“Every morning, and after every dismissal, the entire admin team plus police [met], we were looking at drone footage, all these things, I had my construction guy take drones so we could kind of process what we were seeing because we were all at different places,” Dr. McGuire said. “It just naturally seemed to solve itself.”
I’m not here to deny that the change was chaotic to students and negatively impacted some--Dr. McGuire shared the sentiment in two words: “Good night.”
But my point is that there was improvement, and that most of us adjusted, in some respects. If you want to know exactly why we needed to undergo this $42 million renovation, let me tell you what I learned.
Let’s start with parking: it will improve dramatically. Aside from the 186 new spots, each parking lot will serve a different purpose and be better. Exhibit A: the front parking lot, where you have to drive through potholes and two more parking lots to get anywhere.
“So what you’re going to see is, instead of the buses lining up all the way around here, that whole teacher parking lot is gonna be ripped up and we’re going to bring all the buses in here, and they will come in here and park and they will leave. So there’s nothing else that will be here except buses. That’s going to be a lot safer for kids. This [other lot] is going to be staff and visitor parking. There will be new parking along here, and what’s really great is when the new addition opens, a much better parent drop off.”
New parking: safer, easier, better. The tennis courts will also become parking as future plans try to optimize space for us. That’s millions of dollars, spent on us.
But that investment is not limited to transportation--the entire objective is to increase capacity and resemble what universities and modern high schools look like. Construction and changes will occur on every side; everything in color below will be renovated. The performing arts will receive a much-needed and much-wanted expansion.
“Everything out from this red line is new space,” Dr. McGuire said. “We’re going to double performing arts. Our new band room is going to be huge, actually almost double the size of this one. The existing band room will become choir. We’re going to have group instruction for theatre. A couple music labs over here.”
But, in order to modernize, our school targeted other subject areas that represent a growing share of the modern market. The culinary arts, engineering classrooms and sciences will show immense growth, not just in the building but also in the curriculum. Science classes will share labs to maximize space, and the new section of the school will mirror Fishers and HSE’s “fish bowls” or college spaces in both design and shared space.
“The science and engineering classrooms, those are the perfect places to really develop those critical thinking [skills] and connect it to innovation,” Dr. McGuire said. “That’s why I want to invest so much of our construction budget in science, engineering and construction pieces, because it’s in those programs that it’s not just siloed answers, and those are skills that are hard but challenging.”
Even teachers will share classrooms in a college-like fashion, divided by subject area instead of by teacher. But perhaps the saddest change will be our beloved Learning Center, which already had funeral flowers placed at its front entrance before break. And while my class won’t get to see it in its glory, the classes of 2021 and beyond will see a second story and new innovations (shown below).
My class faces the growing pains of this immense construction project, but the school as a whole will benefit more than any of us know. When I walk outside to leave school and pass the construction site, I think about how much Westfield has changed and will change once I’m gone. It can be exhausting to live through perpetual change, but change is the mother of all happy surprises. And, one day, we’ll see Westfield at that place. Until then, as Dr. McGuire said, good night.