Teachers and students welcome new building

Jasmine Gonzalez

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Although just about everyone in school has felt the effects of the ongoing construction project, which has now passed the two year mark, some departments and the students have faced overcome additional challenges.

Although just about everyone in school has felt the effects of the ongoing construction project, which has now passed the two year mark, some departments and the students have faced overcome additional challenges.  The fine arts departments, namely the music and art departments, have been the most directly affected by the changes, with the demolition and complete reconstruction of the former Tech Arts building that used to house the majority of their classes.

Over the past two years, both teachers and students of the fine arts department made the move from a building in major need of renovation to various temporary spaces that were certainly less than ideal. Before construction, both departments were spread out over various locations in the t-wing. Teachers struggled to accommodate students in rooms that were often too small and sometimes simply unable to meet the needs of the classes in general.

Last year was probably one of the most difficult years as all of the classes officially moved into their temporary spaces.

Thomas Lau and Monique R. Boyd are both art teachers and have been at New Trier for ten and twenty seven years, respectively. As glass art teachers, they were hit particularly hard by the transition as some of their classes were held in the boiler/laundry room. The temporary space, which often reached temperatures of 115° F and suffered everything from questionable leakage to a fire that delayed classes, “was an absolute nightmare”, according to Lau.

Both Lau and Boyd discussed the difficulties of attempting to conduct any sort of art class in such limited spaces that simply did not accommodate the students or teachers well.

Although she was initially worried that enrollment would drop due to these difficulties, Boyd praised the students for their resilience during the difficult transition and said, “the kids were troopers and went through it doing their best”. Lau added, “while it wasn’t the greatest space to transition through it did its job overall”.

While no music classes were held in the laundry room, the situation was not much better for teachers or students. Before construction, the music department had already faced difficulties with small, outdated music rooms that lacked resources.

Matthew B. Temple, a music teacher who directs three concert bands and one jazz band, first observed the run-down conditions of the previous facilities were when he began teaching here eleven years ago. “When I got hired here, I knew that I was coming to a school that had this incredible reputation, but the building definitely did not reflect that”, he said.

Patricia A. Rohwer, a teacher and director of piano, band, and orchestra who has been at New Trier for nineteen years, agreed that the old building—not just the transition spaces—could no longer successfully accommodate the music department. In addition to space issues, Rohwer and Boyd both commented on the fact that the old building was not handicap-accessible. This was one of the biggest problem as it prevented injured students from attending classes and handicapped students from participating in just about any music or art classes at all.

The transition to the temporary spaces required that the music classes spend a year in makeshift classrooms scattered all over the building and mostly in the basement. While the old facilities lacked resources to meet the needs of the students, the temporary rooms came with another set of challenges, as they were not built for music class purposes at all, according to Temple.

Despite the many challenges they had to face, both teachers and students are in awe of the new spaces and supplies that they have received.

“Everyone always kept a very positive attitude that the space was temporary and I would count the days—hundreds of days—knowing that it would all be worth it,” said Boyd.

Teachers from both departments expressed excitement p to be in close proximity to their colleagues for the first time. The new rooms provide the perfect space for collaboration in the arts and the layout allows for the teachers to be able to make these connections.

The new music room in particular received various upgrades and even some new instruments for the percussionists, who struggled with the lack of space last year. With everything from new sound panels and an increase in space, the music programs are expected to continue growing.

However, there is still a lot of work to be done and a few more challenges for both teachers and students. “It hasn’t been worth it…yet”, joked Temple. According to him, with construction behind schedule, teachers had virtually no time to get move into and get organized before starting the new school year.

Overall, “the kids really love the new digs”, said Lau. This should be expected as the new building was not only built to replace the old one, but was especially designed for the classes that are held there.

“These new areas really were designed for us and were absolutely worth all of the work that everybody put into it” said Rohwer

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