Thursday, July 12, 2012

Longfellow and Faulkner Ridge Modernizations

Well it appears that some of my not so popular School Modernization Methods have gotten into the heads of the School's planning department. The words "Holding School" at one point were that of a foreign language until recently and School Modernizations were phased with Students attending Schools during construction. Also more recent renovations have made drastic changes to the exteriors of the School Buildings such as Northfield, Thunder Hill, and Phelps Luck. Although the renovation of Stevens Forest wil add many more windows to the building the ugly masonry facade won't change which is a crying shame. 
Next on the renovation schedule is Longfellow. Built in 1970, renovated in 1986, and has received additions in 1994 and 2007. Longfellow was always a weird building. It was built on a site with hills that although the School is one level, there are a lot of steps throughout the building as a result of the hilly topography. It was first built with no Gym and the 1994 addition that gave one to the School was at the front of the building and is away from the Ball fields. Speaking of Ball fields the School doesn't have the traditional Baseball diamonds and back stops that an Elementary School is supposed to have. This anomaly can be traced back to the early 1970s when a neighbor of the School complained about noise from the Ball fields and Basketball Courts on the Blacktop. To appease this Neighbor, the School Board elected to get rid of the Baseball Diamonds and the Basketball citing that there are Basketball Courts at the Neighborhood Center next to the School. 
Current Floor Plan of Longfellow from HoCo Assesments
 In addition to the woes of Longfellow being so multi leveled and the expense to make all those steps and ramps ADA complient, Longfellow's floor plan leaves plenty to the imagination. The triangular stage in the Cafeteria is too small and in every renovation plan I've seen it calls for a demolition of this stage, the interior hallways dead end making for poor interior circulation, the number of Class Rooms or "Teaching Stations" has gone down as new programs were implemented such as G&T, Special Ed, RECC, PRE K, and a Computer Lab. This has been addressed partially through the 1994 and 2007 classroom additions as well as portable classrooms. The administration office doesn't have a clear view of the outside partially due to the Gym Addition blocking its view and the Health Suite needs to be brought up to COMAR regulation. These issues don't even begin to address the systemic renovations that are overdue.
One of the Options for Renovation from
 In order to bring Longfellow up to the standards of 2012, there will have to a lot of demolition and rebuilding involved. There is one plan that involves building a new Gym closer to the Ball fields and using the current Gym building as the administration suite. Of the options presented for renovating the existing building this is the one I prefer. There are also small classroom additions to get rid of the portable class rooms mainly for grades 3, 4, and 5. With the floor plan undergoing these additions how much room will there be for the Ballfields and Black Top?
Given the cost and the scope of the work needed at Longfellow it became more and more apparent that the Student Population shouldn't be attending School there during the course of the work. Faulkner Ridge Elementary closed in 1983 and was used as a staff development Center until it was emptied out in 2011. The option of using came up and I couldn't have been more thrilled. Why? I think if using a Holding School becomes an option it might make for larger renovations and modernizations and perhaps even a replacement School. As I was reading the Columbia Flier earlier this week, the option of completely tearing down Longfellow and starting anew was brought up. A brand new Longfellow will make better use of the small site the School is located on. A new School could then be two stories with the Gym located near the Ball fields, Administration Suite with an eye shot of the Parking Lot and everything will be ADA compliant. With the School being two stories instead of one, more acreage can be used for Ball fields and Parking Spaces.
If Longfellow were rebuilt I would like it to look like this
 With a newer larger Longfellow, its district can be made larger to relieve crowding in other West Columbia Schools. Swansfield is slated to grow as empty nesters give way to young Families. Also Running Brook will double in size due to the Downtown Columbia Development which as a result will have redistricting into Bryant Woods making it crowded as well. Longfellow can take the Faulkner Ridge Neighborhood from Bryant Woods and the Trails at Woodlot from Swansfield easily. 
Proposed Renovations to Faulkner Ridge for use as a Holding School
 Now we come to Faulkner Ridge, in the Longfellow Renovation Feasibility Study they also weigh options on how to make Faulkner Ridge a Holding School. Faulkner Ridge hadn't been renovated and its classrooms use the open concept which was a sign of the times when it was built in 1969. I saw blue prints for how it could be renovated and it shows that there could be three classrooms for each grade K-5, one room for Art and one for music, as well as a Media Center, Computer Lab, Special Ed, G&T, and Reading Resource. There is also a Multi Purpose Room that would make for a small Gym. There would have to be in the case of Longfellow's program 3 RECC, 1 PREK, and 1 music portable classrooms would have to be used. If Faulkner Ridge were to continue its use as a Holding School long term it would need an addition to house a RECC, PRE K, another Music Room, a full size Gym, as well as additional Student and Faculty Restrooms as well as large group instruction pods. 
With the Modernizations of Northfiled and Thunder Hill and now Phelps Luck and eventually Stevens Forest the art of modernizing Schools has reached new heights and now with Longfellow, and its holding School, older Columbia Schools might have their day in the sun yet again.   

1 comment:

Ken said...

Ken said...
I would love to read what you are saying, as I am a local person and this blog is right in my niche.

But the design (i.e., color selection) of this blog is an ABOMINATION and makes it LITERALLY UNREADABLE.

And no, not in a cute, counter-culture, zig-when-they-sag way.

Put it this way: even if this post contained a free, easy, single-step cure for cancer I would not read it. It is that bad.

For the love of humanity, please, if this is your design sense you need to go with one of the many sensible templates and resist with every fiber of your bring the urge to "improve" it.