$66 million will buy one new theater, one STEAM building, and a remodel of PHS. When the citizens of Piedmont passed Measure H1 a year ago, the journey to a new school began.
After the District’s Facilities Steering Committee presented several ideas, the School Board approved a plan to construct a new STEAM building in place of the current Alan Harvey Theater, and rebuild the theater in place of the current 10s building. The detailed plans are available at measureh1.org.
The estimated two-year project will begin in May of 2018, so the construction will have the biggest impact on the graduating classes of 2019 through 2023, according to an email sent by superintendent Randall Booker.
“It might distract students to hear construction noises during the school day,” freshman Erica Lam said. “But the theater will be newer and updated, with a lot more room.”
The HKIT (Hardison, Komatsu, Ivelich, & Tucker) architects released their designs for the new school on Sept. 27. The science teachers have met with the architects twice now, with more meetings to come, said chemistry and biotechnology teacher Tom Huffaker.
“The science teachers met with [the architects] to give them ideas of what is required, like sinks and gas and plumbing,” Huffaker said.
The need for this huge renovation of PHS came from inadequate facilities in the science building as well as compromised safety in the theater.
“Right now, we have only one classroom designed to do labs, and that’s [room] 25,” Huffaker said. “[In the STEAM building,] we are going to have 5 identical science classrooms, where you could teach any subject in any classroom.”
The building will be zero net energy, meaning that it is self-sufficient. The electricity that the building will need for things like lights, fans, and water heaters will be produced by the solar panels that cover the roof of the building, Huffaker said.
“All of the energy that the building uses, the building produces,” Huffaker said. “It’s a LEED-certified building.”
LEED-certification is given to a building based on a rating scale developed by the United States Green Building Council. This organization assesses a building’s environmental sustainability, and they approved of the designs for the future STEAM building, Huffaker said.
“We’re setting an example for other schools to follow,” sophomore Eliana Bloomfield said.
The technology and science that makes the building zero net energy provides more opportunities to learn, whether it’s the intricacies of the solar panels or the engineering that goes into the building’s design, Huffaker said.
“[The building itself] is another great learning tool,” Huffaker said. “We hope to incorporate a lot of that into our lessons.”
This project will bring new technology into PHS. For example, the architects are thinking of including 60 to 80-inch monitors in classes, which teachers could hook up to their computers or use as projectors, Huffaker said.
Since the plan includes the demolition and reconstruction of the Alan Harvey Theater, this will displace the drama class and other arts performances for a period of time, which are usually held in the theater.
“We use the stage a lot, and we use the lights to do spotlights if we’re performing a monologue in front of the class,” Lam said about her acting class. “It’ll be harder if we don’t have the stuff that we need.”
In the new theater, there will be two floors of audience seating, as well as a lobby and a drama classroom.
“It could be be really cool to have our own designated acting space, especially on days when other arts programs perform there,” Bloomfield said.
According to measureh1.org, the 30s building will become the building for the MHS, which puts it in a more central part of PHS, though they will continue to be two separate high schools.
“I have a friend who’s in Millennium, and she really doesn’t like how separate the schools are because it creates a stigma between the Piedmont kids and Millennium kids,” said Bloomfield. “It’ll be nice to feel like we all go to the same school.”
In the end, the outcome of a brand new STEAM building and Alan Harvey Theater will be worth the time and effort, Huffaker said.
“I’m super excited about it, it’ll be fun to be in a classroom like that and to be in that kind of building,” Huffaker said.