Friday, July 27, 2012

Running Brook Addition: We Can't Simply Slap It On

Like Longfellow, Running Brook is an odd School. The most strikingly odd part is that the front doors don't overlook the parking lot, a blank almost windowless side of the School does and one has to walk around it to get to the front doors. In addition to being my Elementary Alma Mater, Running Brook's enrollment has skyrocketed from 288 in 1994 to 435 in 2012 without a single square foot of added space. In the coming years enrollment will continue to rise as Downtown Columbia is developed all of which for now is located in the Running Brook District. With a current capacity of 405, an addition of some sort must be built within the next few years, but we can't just slap it on.
Running Brook opened in 1970 with the then stylish "open classroom" concept. Once the 1980s rolled around, that style has faded and in 1984 partitions were added that completely enclosed some classrooms and partially enclosed others. The open concept hadn't died completely with this limited renovation. Also in 1984, the multipurpose room was divided in three which made for the music room, G&T room, and O/T room. A new full sized Gym was added that year as was a two classroom addition that at the time housed the RECC and PREK. 1984 was the last and only time additions were made to Running Brook.
In 2006 Running Brook underwent a complete interior systemic renovation that included getting rid of any and all open classrooms once and for all. Although this renovation was long overdue and by enlcosing classrooms it did not include any additions to the building. nor did it add windows or a "reskinned exterior." What it did include was an expanded parking lot that stems from the fornt doors to the playground. Now the footprint of the building didn't grow during this renovation but the enclosing of the open classrooms did create a lerger building capacity. A total of seven additional classrooms of 22 seats was created bringing the capacity up from 261 before the renovations up to its current capacity of 405. A combination of growth and redistricting has made Running Brook outgrow its 405 capacity. In the coming years enrollment will continue to go up breaking 5, 6, or even 700 Students.
Seeing that the redevelopment of Downtown Columbia will have an effect on Running Brook where currently all of it goes, the County has elected to build a 100 seat addition to Running Brook. As the name of this post suggests, we can't just "slap on" this addition. Running Brook has some very small areas that would need to addressed that a mere classroom addition won't correct. First, the front entrance doors don't face the road, in newer Schools this is needed so that Administrative Staff can keep an eye on the goings on in the Parking Lot. Where the Art, Music, and O/T rooms currently are is the approximate location of where the entrance doors should be as well as the new Administration Suite should be. This will also require a new fine arts suite because the new front office will take up the current undersized space. This fine arts addition should contain 2 art rooms 2 music rooms and a band room which is what new larger Schools and an expanded Running Brook should contain. Also newer Schools contain a second Gym or "PE Activity Room" that when adding on to Running Brook must be considered. Also there's the obvious need to expand the Cafeteria, that was too small 20 some odd years when I attended this School and enrollment was much lower. An expanded Cafeteria is the only way all these additional Students can fit into the School. I've opened up a huge can of worms that Running Brook needs that doesn't even address the original intent; a 100 seat classroom addition. Like I said, we simply can't just slap on this addition.
My vision for a new Running Brook
 Now why just 100 seats? That's the size of the classroom addition that was proposed for Running Brook. Remember I said that enrollment may hit 700 and with a total capacity of 505 that addition is simply too small. Luckily there's time to discuss options for Running Brook as the addition has been deferred. I have a feeling that in addition to money being tight for construction that the County got wind of just how much more than a mere classroom addition of 100 seats is required to prep Running Brook for its unprecedented growth. Personally I think Running Brook has outgrown its building and it's time to rebuild it from the ground up. Elementary School #41 currently under construction in Elkridge is located on a 10 acre site as is Running Brook with a capacity of 600. This School may hold the key to what a new Running Brook should look like seeing as it has all the amenities of a new School while sitting on a small site like Running Brook. I think the County should wait a few years and put aside money to rebuild Running Brook.
There are options open that will hold the additional Students until a new Running Brook opens. First there's Longfellow, it will begin a massive modernization project in the coming years which will include an addition. Longfellow's enrollment is projected to remain the same in the foreseeable future so perhaps a larger Longfellow be of some assistance.

Second there's Bryant Woods, even with a new large Running Brook can't hold all of the new growth on its own so eventually redistricting into Bryant Woods would be inevitable. Bryant Woods is growing on its own already as homes that have long since held empty nesters are housing young Families once again. Bryant Woods is laid out very differently than Running Brook which makes it much easier to "slap on" an addition. Perhaps redistricting part of Downtown Bryant Woods and adding onto before rebuilding Running Brook is the way to go. At the same time, the Neighborhood of Faulkner Ridge can be redistricted to the newly modernized Longfellow that has capacity. Also Faulkner Ridge is within walking distance of Longfellow so transportation costs won't increase. Speaking of Faulkner Ridge, its closed Elementary School can act as a holding School during the rebuilding of Running Brook which it will do for Longfellow and probably Swansfield. 
My proposed redistricting for West Columbia
 Given all the work that needs to be done at Running Brook, it's good to know that there are neighboring Schools that can help until Running Brook is squared away, because we can't just slap on an addition

1 comment:

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.